UM System to release details of possible budget cuts

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | 8:29 p.m. CST; updated 9:18 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 11, 2008

University of Missouri System faculty, staff and students will learn next week the details of potential cuts that may take as much as $100 million from the system's 2010 budget.

An unprecedented state shortfall through June could also require funds to be withheld from the current budget.

In an e-mail Wednesday, UM System President Gary Forsee said a plan to be filed with the state Department of Higher Education by Dec. 18, will likely include "general references to programs and departments; overall work force of faculty, staff and administration; tuition and fees; enrollment; (and) benefits.” 

Forsee also indicated special teams are working to address the impact of the cuts and that systemwide measures already taken to combat budget constraints may not be enough.

In frank wording, Forsee's e-mail acknowledged the UM System is confronted with a serious financial situation and that “…traditional cost-cutting responses — such as across-the-board reductions, trimming travel and training costs, or freezing open positions as we have done — will not adequately address this challenge."

On Dec. 2, state universities and colleges received a memo from the state Department of Higher Education that asked them to prepare for possible budget cuts of 15, 20 or 25 percent. The memo asked administrators to prepare statements describing how their campus would operate in each scenario.

The state recently announced an estimated budget shortfall of $342 million, which would fuel statewide budget cuts of up to 25 percent. The UM System, which receives more than $400 million annually from the state, could see cuts of between $60 million and $100 million, Forsee said.

“During the next several weeks and few months, we will work with all constituents and existing campus processes to ensure involvement and transparency,” he wrote.

Forsee's e-mail came a day after he met with representatives from the UM System’s four campuses to hear faculty and staff's ideas to cope with potential budget cuts in the next fiscal year.

The Missourian was previously told Tuesday’s Intercampus Faculty Council meeting was closed, which Cindy Pollard, associate vice president and system spokeswoman, confirmed Wednesday.

Pollard was not available to give specific reasons for the meeting's closure.

Tom Phillips, an MU professor of biological sciences who was present at the meeting, called it a “brainstorming session where we were just trying to put out ideas,” but he was not prepared to say what those ideas were.

Phillips said the current financial situation is unlike any the system has seen before.

"This is a serious statewide problem that may be with us for a couple of years," he said.

In a separate e-mail sent Wednesday, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said he will work with faculty, staff and students to prepare for the possible cuts.

"We have faced similar budget situations in the past but not of this potential magnitude," Deaton wrote.

Forsee also called on faculty and staff members to lobby state legislators on behalf of the UM System.

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Eric Smith December 11, 2008 | 6:45 a.m.

I wonder if some of Mr. Forsee's proposed cuts will include cutting through the unnecessary and extra layer of bureaucracy at the system level. There's no reason to maintain such redundant offices in Columbia when system and campus could be merged, but I can almost guarantee it won't happen--and when it doesn't, that will tell you a lot about Mr. Forsee. A lot of hard working people just getting by will get laid off, but the biggest paper pushers will just keep right on pushing.

(Report Comment)
Wayne Duncan December 11, 2008 | 8:00 a.m.

You are right about consolidating offices, however, you did not go far enough. Instead of just the Columbia and System admin. offices being consolidated, even more money could be saved if most of the admin. offices at all campuses were consolidated into one office under the system. There is no reason to have a purchasing office, accounting office, risk management office, design & construction office, etc. on each campus with every campus having a director and asst. director(s)for each department. There are certain offices that need to be on each campus like personnel or police, but even with these departments there could be one person in charge of all offices with an asst. manager or director in charge at the campus level

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 11, 2008 | 8:59 a.m.

Good luck hoping for a big reduction in administrative jobs. Those typically pay around or north of $100K, so they're positions that no community wants to see lost because of what they add to the tax base. If there were a serious effort to slash such positions, rest assured that the city would use whatever influence it has at the state and system levels to preserve the ones here.

(Report Comment)

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