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Getty Trust to slash budget and lay off 97 workers

April 27, 2009 |  5:51 pm

Gettycenter1 The J. Paul Getty Trust will slash its workforce by 14% -- a loss of 205 jobs -- under a newly adopted budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year that begins July 1. In a statement released Monday, Getty officials said they expect to lay off 97 current regular employees, with the rest of the reduction to come from positions either now vacant or likely to come open through normal turnover.

Visitors will take a hit too: While admission to the Getty Museum and grounds in Brentwood and the Getty Villa near Malibu will remain free, parking at both sites will rise from $10 to $15 on July 1 -- a near doubling from the $8 that was in effect until last September. In 2008, the two venues attracted 1.6 million visitors, according to Getty figures.

The Getty is America's wealthiest arts institution, but its ability to pay its bills depends almost entirely on earnings from its endowment. Getty officials said the endowment lost 27% of its value from last July 1 through March 31. The trust now has $4.2 billion -- down from its $6.4 billion peak in 2007, and lower than its deepest trough during the recession year of 2001-02.

Interviewed last month, Getty Trust President James Wood said he was unwilling to put off budget cuts and risk a "fall off a huge cliff" if the global economic malaise lingers and the Getty, which never has cultivated donors as most nonprofit arts groups do, continues to see its investment earnings decline.

Next year's budget for regular operations will be $220 million, down 22.5% from the current $284 million. Spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said Monday that cuts will be made across the full range of Getty operations, rather than eliminating any single large program or function. Besides running a museum, the Getty Trust issues grants to other arts institutions and operates institutes dedicated to art research and global programs in art conservation.

Jaskol said the cuts will include reductions in the number of exhibitions and less money for acquisitions of the ancient Greek and Roman, pre-20th century European and photographic art that the Getty primarily collects. Employees will meet with department heads Wednesday and Thursday to get details of how the unprecedented cuts will affect them; until then, Jaskol said, the Getty won't provide more details on the budget.

The Getty's statement on Monday said that remaining employees won't get raises, and "senior leadership" -- Wood and his 10 top administrators -- will take pay cuts of up to 6%. James M. Williams was the trust's top earner last year at $1.28 million, according to the Getty's financial statements, while Wood made $1.1 million and most of the rest of the management team was paid $397,000 or more. 

The coming layoffs, some of which will begin almost immediately, follow the elimination last spring of 124 jobs in what was characterized as a restructuring rather than a response to economic problems. Memos that Wood issued to the Getty staff Monday and last week said that those losing their jobs will receive severance pay of two weeks' salary for each year they've worked, not counting the first four years of service. All will get pay and benefits for a two-month "transition period."

Since Feb. 21, Getty employees have been venting their anger and anxiety over the impending cuts anonymously on a special blog.

A sampling of reactions posted today:

"Colleagues that are incredibly talented are being laid off tomorrow. THIS SUCKS. Speak your mind at the staff meetings on Wed and Thurs! Let the administration know this is unfair!! I'm glad Rosa Parks didn't work at the Getty... she would have been happy to continue sitting at the back of the bus until the day she died."

" I know I may in the minority here, but I am looking forward to my letter and planning the next stage of my life. Its an opportunity. And although many don't see it as such, it's a generous opportunity and I cannot wait to try something new."

"For many the Getty is a career, not just a job. A job is easy to walk away from. A career is not."

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: Getty Center. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times


 

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