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SUNY colleges sign shared-services agreement

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POTSDAM — The leaders of SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam met to outline the future of shared services between the two colleges by signing a memorandum of understanding Monday morning.

“Today is a celebration, as we recognize the success so far of our nationally recognized shared services,” SUNY Potsdam interim President Dennis L. Hefner said.

The colleges already have some shared positions, including payroll, university police and a vice president for business affairs and administration. Both schools are looking into further shared services, and the memorandum outlines plans for further potential agreements through 2015.

The agreement was created to provide a uniform approach to shared services. Previous arrangements all were drafted differently.

“There were no overarching agreements between the two colleges,” SUNY Canton President Joseph C. Hoffman said.

Now the memorandum provides a template for the schools moving forward, as well as direction for the future.

The agreement states that there will be no formal layoffs as a result of shared services, although some jobs may be shifted around as the campuses change how they do things.

Most of the duties now shared between the colleges are behind-the-scenes administrative tasks, but a more expansive array of tasks is in view in the coming years.

The colleges are looking into combining their purchases, buying goods or services for both campuses to take advantage of bulk purchase rates.

In addition, they will begin to work towards shared academic programs, offering minors or degrees that neither could provide on its own. Faculty has begun discussing a possible shared forensic science minor, although nothing is set in stone.

The colleges plan to combine their purchasing and budget offices, along with creating a new minor, by 2014.

Local and state officials were present to watch the signing.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, praised the agreement as a step forward.

“Now we have an opportunity to look at more exciting academic programs,” she said.

Although the morning event at SUNY Potsdam’s Raymond Hall was focused on ways the colleges could reduce waste by working together, the agreement also made it clear each campus would retain its own identity and leadership. There were once fears that SUNY would choose to appoint a single president to lead both colleges, although it has since been confirmed that each would remain distinct.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she supported the schools’ commitment to retaining their independence.

“You believed, as I did, that each of these campuses deserved their own leadership,” she said.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, Potsdam Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan and Canton Town Supervisor David T. Button also spoke.

College officials said shared services will provide benefits to both schools, especially in tough economic times.

Shared services are nothing new for the region, said June F. O’Neill, SUNY Potsdam College Council chairwoman. This agreement merely formalizes them and gives direction for the coming years.

“We’ve done it for years with no headlines, no television, and no radio,” she said.

SUNY Canton College Council Chairman Ronald M. O’Neill, husband of June, also spoke in favor of the agreement.

“This is a good day. Our college council has always supported shared services where it makes sense,” he said.

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