SFTS Southern California Campus Closure Update

Feb. 16, 2011 

The recent decision to close the San Francisco Theological Seminary Southern California campus is part of a larger and urgent effort to reach financial equilibrium.

This effort started in 2009 when the Seminary reduced its operating budget by $1.5 million. The cuts included significant reductions in both faculty and staff, the closing of the Lloyd Counseling Center and sale of the Children’s Center to a new operator. The hope was that these reductions would allow SFTS to balance its budget instead of relying on unrestricted endowment funds.

Sadly, the SFTS Board of Trustees reported in October 2010 that additional reductions were needed. The board asked the SFTS Administrative Cabinet to cut $850,000 from the budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which begins July 1. Reducing the operating budget by this amount each year allows the Seminary to have a balanced budget by Fiscal Year 2016. It would also save $1 million annually in unrestricted endowment funds, which would have been needed for projected budget deficits the next five years.   

After years of excessive spending from the SFTS endowment funds, it is essential for the Seminary to accomplish financial equilibrium. Accrediting agencies, WASC and ATS, are demanding it. Donors are equally insistent. It is also obvious that during the search for a new president, the Seminary will be far more attractive to potential candidates if SFTS has an established plan for financial equilibrium.

The Administrative Cabinet, with input from the Financial Health Working Group and support from the faculty, made the final recommendation to the board in February. The Financial Health Working Group, a committee of the board, includes trustees, faculty, staff and students. The Administrative Cabinet consists of the Vice Presidents for Southern California, Institutional Advancement, Finance and Administrative, and Academic Affairs. The Associate Dean of Students and President are also members of the Administrative Cabinet.

The entire faculty of SFTS was consulted on two occasions regarding the latest round of cuts.  Requests for suggestions were also made to the staff. As the proposals for the reductions were developed, there were two conference call meetings of the Board of Trustees Executive Committee during which all the possible proposals were discussed. 

The process was agonizing. Especially after the reductions in 2009, it was difficult to face a similar task and its effects on the Seminary. Although the largest savings could be accomplished by closing the Southern California campus, there was great reluctance to take such a step. In the end, it became necessary to include the closure of the Southern California campus in the list of recommendations approved by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 8.  

Additional reductions include cutting 2.5 staff positions in Northern California, the replacement of Board of Pensions medical and pension coverage with less costly alternatives (affecting 9 staff and faculty), reductions in travel, postage and printing, as well as a cap on capital expenditures in San Anselmo.

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