University of Bridgeport’s just released 2018-19 finances show a ship in distress

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BRIDGEPORT — The University of Bridgeport spent $8.3 million more than it made in the 2018-19 fiscal year and burned through $8.7 million of its modest endowment, according to a fiscal filing by the university recently made public.

The federal Internal Revenue Service documents released late last month shows that UB ended the fiscal year in June 2019 with a $25.2 million endowment. Two years prior, its endowment was at $37 million, its highest level in decades.

The 2018-19 fiscal year was the first and only full year of former UB President Laura Trombley’s tenure. She left in April, having served 18 months.

Just before her departure, Trombley sent an email to the university community on March 30 saying the university anticipated an operating deficit in the 2019-20 fiscal year of approximately $12.5 million. The filing for that year has not yet been released.

If the expected losses held true, it likely would have cut the university’s $25 million endowment in half.

At the time, Trombley said the loss came despite efforts to renegotiate vendor contracts, reduce the campus footprint and close buildings.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, UB laid off 33 employees and furloughed 93 others, according to Trombley. Other staff took pay cuts.

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“To accomplish our goal of a non-deficit budget by the end of the academic year 2021, we will continue to decrease costs and grow revenues,” Trombley wrote in the March email.

Three days later, Trombley was introduced as the new president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Acting UB President Stephen Healey, who was provost during Trombley’s tenure, said Friday he was willing to speak about the IRS form, but then reneged to prepare for a Board of Trustees meeting, he said. On Monday, he said he, along with UB’s chief financial officer