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Anticipating a smaller budget, WUSF cuts eight

Management decisions and a tight budget led to sacrifices for USF’s radio and television station. WUSF released eight employees last week because of budget cuts the department is expected to suffer after the legislative session in March.

Two employees were laid off while six contracts will not be renewed by WUSF-Ch. 16 and WUSF-FM 89.7.

Joann Urofsky, general manager for WUSF, said the stations may have to reduce their budgets by $600,000 because of Gov. Jeb Bush’s state budget proposal. Urofsky said she had to release some employees in order to allow for more local programming.

“What I’m looking for is a leadership team that can really fulfill this transformation,” Urofsky said.

The employees’ contracts that were not renewed included some who worked at WUSF for several years, including WUSF-Ch.16 station manager Bill Buxton, television membership manager Tom Wilson and radio news director Rick Stone.

Stone, who has worked for WUSF-FM 89.7 for 13 years, said his release was expected in this situation.

“It was kind of a mild surprise,” Stone said. “If you’re a manager in broadcast news, you never rule this out. There’s never job security in this line of work.”

Prior to working for USF, Stone worked for Newstalk in Miami and was a news reporter, as well. Stone said he would like to return to writing for the media.

Urofsky said further reasons for releasing employees went into personnel matters, which she didn’t want to discuss. Urofsky said she wants WUSF to have more community collaboration with local organizations, such as the Museum of Science and Industry and wants to create more programming for the stations.

“In the governor’s proposal, he has taken away all the community service grant money … that may affect what we do in the future,” Urofsky said.

WUSF-TV would lose $557,000 from its $3.7-million budget and WUSF-FM would lose $106,000 from a $3.8-million budget.

Stone said he has no resentment toward Urofsky or the station because of his release.

“That’s a great station. They’re doing what they have to do there,” Stone said.

Urofsky said WUSF program director Robert Peterson will focus his attention on the news department until the station can hire another news director, and Pat Holley will serve as the interim TV station manager.

Urofsky said students will not start noticing major changes in the stations for several months, when a final budget is determined by the legislative session.