For FIT, the pinch is even sharper since its fund-raising has been off since the Sept. 11 attacks, which diverted much charitable giving to relief-related causes.
In his inaugural address last week, Bloomberg pledged to cut staffing in his office by 20 percent and called on the city comptroller, public advocate, borough presidents and City Council to do the same. This week, the city Office of Management & Budget sent FIT president Joyce Brown a letter, signed by deputy director David Rubenstein, asking the school to prepare a plan for how it would cope with a 20 percent cut in city funding for its 2002-2003 fiscal year, which begins in July.
In an interview Monday, Brown said a cut of that magnitude “would be quite devastating.”
“It’s very, very troubling,” she continued. “There is no fat in the budget and we have to be able to support our faculty and our academic programs.”
She declined to speculate on what programs would be most affected by such a budget cut, saying only that the school would try to distribute the effects evenly.
The city contributes about one-third of FIT’s annual $100 million operating budget. The balance of FIT’s operating funding comes in roughly equal portions from the state and tuition. For first-year, full-time students who are state residents, tuition is $2,600 before fees. Because FIT is part of the State University of New York system, all its tuition decisions must be approved by a state board.
While Brown held out hope that the city would not impose the full 20 percent cut, she acknowledged some cut seems likely. A spokesman for the mayor’s office did not return phone calls.
At GIDC, the budget crisis is more immediate. New York State is currently operating on a “bare-bones” budget passed by the legislature before Sept. 11 that made minimal provision for nonprofit organizations and none for GIDC. The city also has cut its funding to the group, a joint initiative of the apparel union UNITE, government and apparel management, with a mission of supporting apparel manufacturing in the city through training and advisory services.
“We got a 15 percent cut when [former Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani did all the agencies,” Linda Dworak, president of the GIDC, said Friday. “There’s a huge deficit and it could impact us. The state has been a bigger issue for us.”
The city cut its funding to the GIDC, which had averaged $467,000 a year, in November. Dworak said she was not sure if Bloomberg would seek another 20 percent cut in city funding to the group. She said her group typically received almost half its funding — about $800,000 a year — from the state, but this fiscal year it has received no state money. That has led to serious belt tightening.
“We’ve actually laid people off,” she said. “We had a staff of 15 and we laid four people off already. Several of them worked with training, so our training programs have been impacted. But we’re trying to even that out, to take the cut across the board so we don’t decimate any one particular program. In general, all our programs are suffering.”
Together, the city and state provide about 60 percent of GIDC’s operating budget.
Both Dworak and FIT’s Brown are waiting to see what Gov. George Pataki’s next budget proposal, which is expected to be released over the coming week or so, has in store for their groups.
Dworak said it would be disastrous for GIDC to have the rest of its state funding cut.
“It would devastate the organization,” she said. “We would find a way to continue, but we would definitely have to scale back. It’s a very risky time for us.”
Dworak said the budget cuts are particularly painful since GIDC has been scrambling to try to assist the many garment workers in Chinatown who have lost their jobs since Sept. 11. Chinatown is a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center. Logistical problems and the slowdown in the economy have resulted in an estimated 15 percent of the neighborhood’s garment workers losing their jobs and many others coping with reduced hours.
“There are so many garment workers that are out of work and companies are truly suffering,” Dworak said. “These cuts come at a time when our services are most in demand.”
While cuts in government funding are biting into the operating budget at FIT, a dropoff in giving since Sept. 11 is affecting fund-raising for scholarships and future capital expenditures.
On Sept. 10, the school announced it had received its largest-ever donation — $10 million — from retired Kohl’s president Jay H. Baker and his wife Patty. FIT officials hoped to use that as a springboard to push for more gifts. The Sept. 11 attacks changed matters.
The school canceled its annual fund-raising gala, which had been scheduled for Dec. 4 at the New York Hilton. Instead, FIT sent out a letter by John Pomerantz, chairman of The Leslie Fay Co. and of The Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries, asking people to make a donation in lieu of attending the party.
The school had planned to raise about $1 million at the dinner, on par with the average for the past five years. FIT also launched its first “annual fund” campaign, sending out a letter by Nautica designer David Chu.
Brown said she’s aware that these are tough economic times, but argued that FIT is important to the industry.
“While the industry is going through difficult times, and we are aware of that, we know they do rely on us for the next generation of leadership,” she said.
The Baker gift helped the school to complete the first phase of its $60 million Design for Success capital campaign, which will fund two new buildings and an expansion into the remaining open spaces on FIT’s Seventh Avenue campus.
Brown said she expected the school to break ground this spring on that new construction, which will add 300,000 square feet of space to the school to accommodate its population of more than 11,000 students.
To continue its fund-raising, FIT is reaching out beyond the fashion industry, to the finance, real estate and advertising sectors.
“We were doing really pretty well until Sept. 11,” Brown said. “We all have to catch our breath and regroup and tell our story to even more people.”