UJC takes step towards more layoffs, budget cuts

UJC takes step towards more layoffs, budget cuts

NEW YORK — Under pressure from the federations that it serves, the United Jewish Communities took a step toward implementing an 18 percent budget cut that will include significant layoffs, the second time this year the organization will be forced to enact major personnel cuts.
The budget committee of the UJC, the North American arm of the federation system, has approved a plan to reduce the organization’s budget from $37 million this year to $30.3 million in 2009-2010. The cuts will come primarily from the elimination of 31 jobs, the organization’s top professional and top lay leader told JTA.
The cuts became necessary because local Jewish federations have on average seen their annual campaigns significantly drop during the recession, and many federations are making significant budget cuts and staff reductions on their own, UJC officials said in a telephone interview following the budget meeting.
“We surveyed our federations to see how campaigns were going, and a wide array felt that in general the campaigns probably averaged down in the low- to mid- teens,” the UJC’s chairman, Joe Kanfer, said.
The UJC has been anticipating and planning a budget cut for months, given the struggles of the federations that support it with annual dues.
Since the beginning of March, the Jewish federations in New York, Cleveland and Atlanta have laid off between 11 percent and 25 percent of their professional staffs. Each organization cited shrinking donations because of the economic downturn as the reason behind the moves.
Prior to a February powwow of more than 200 federation leaders in Florida to discuss the future of the UJC, a letter signed by several major federations circulated asking the organization to cut its budget, JTA reported previously. But as recently as March 16, the organization’s CEO and president, Howard Rieger, was hoping that the federations would accept a 10 percent budget cut that he proposed in February.
They apparently did not, prompting UJC leadership at some point during the past two weeks to up the proposed cut to 18 percent.
The plan is expected to be considered by the UJC’s executive committee on April 22; if approved, it will be brought before the organization’s general board in June. But layoffs are expected to begin after the late April meeting.
Last year, the organization cut its budget from $40.2 million to $37 million, laying off 37 employees in the process.
Since the UJC was formed in 1999 after a merger between the United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations and the United Israel Appeal, the organization has nearly halved its staff; it has reduced its budget from $46.2 million in 1999 to what would be $30.2.