Appropriation cuts lead to layoffs and furloughs throughout CPB

By Dru Sefton

CPB has laid off 12 employees and eliminated three vacant positions in a downsizing prompted by the federal budget sequestration and other cuts to its appropriation.

The job cuts, announced today, extend across all departments and range from administrative to vice president levels, said Michael Levy, executive v.p. of corporate and public affairs. Taken together, the downsizing reduces CPB’s workforce by 11 percent.

CPB will also trim its payroll by requiring all senior vice presidents and executive officers to take one-week furloughs before Sept. 30, the end of CPB’s fiscal year.

Levy cited personnel privacy issues in declining to discuss which employees were leaving CPB, but two sources inside the corporation identified six employees who had received severance packages: Terry Bryant, chief content officer for TV and digital media; Nicole Mezlo, director of media and public relations; Robert Winteringham, deputy general counsel; Angela Palmer, director of TV program development and producer relations; Doug McKenney, director of CPB’s Public Awareness Initiative; and Chuck Roberts, facilities coordinator.

CPB’s original FY13 appropriation of $445 million was trimmed a total of 5.2 percent, or $23.14 million, under sequestration cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Continuing Resolution approved by Congress March 21.

By statute, CPB’s own administrative budget cannot exceed 5 percent of its total appropriation, which now stands at just under $422 million.  To adjust for sequestration and the rescission imposed by the CR, the corporation had to bring its spending under $21.09 million. The amount is $1.15 million less than CPB’s 2012 administrative budget, according to Levy.

Personnel costs account for 73 percent of CPB’s administrative budget, Levy said. The remainder covers overhead costs such as rent, telecommunications, outside auditors, and information technology.

The rising cost of employee health insurance added to the financial strain, Levy said. Premiums jumped 28 percent in the last nine months.

Levy called the decision to institute layoffs “a difficult one.”

“Given what we are facing,” Levy said, “there was no other responsible way to address this financial situation. We see a certitude of escalating costs. We also believe there will be a continuing downward pressure on our appropriation.” The Budget Control Act of 2011 provides for up to 10 years of spending caps, he said.

By downsizing, CPB creates “medium- to long-term savings, preserving our ability to operate efficiently on behalf of the system,” Levy said.

The last layoffs at CPB took place in 1997-98.

To help stations prepare for the sequestration cuts, CPB altered its system for distributing Community Service Grant this fiscal year. In the first of two CSG checks distributed to stations, the corporation front-loaded the payments so each station received 70 percent of its grant last fall. CPB paid out the remaining 30 percent was in the second set of checks.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org
This post has been updated with additional information that ran in Current May 13, 2013.

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