COLUMBIA — Amid concerns of salary reductions and layoffs, hundreds of MU faculty listened to and questioned how administrators plan to respond to potential budget cuts of up to 25 percent Wednesday night.
Faculty members wanted specifics of how the cuts in state funding might affect them. But aside from a campus-wide reduction in thermostat temperature, details were few. Administrators do not anticipate any salary reductions or layoffs of faculty, but “no promises can be made because of the uncertainty we’re facing at this time,” Chancellor Brady Deaton said. He said he would protect from salary cuts or layoffs employees earning less than $40,000.
Deaton wasn't able to give further specifics during the question-and-answer session.
Until the Missouri General Assembly has a clear idea of how much funding it might need to cut to state programs, Deaton said he cannot comment on the magnitude of potential cuts or how they will specifically affect MU.
Deaton also said he hasn’t heard anything on the possible withholding of state funds for the current fiscal year.
A presentation at Wednesday’s meeting by MU budget director Tim Rooney illustrated just how severe it could get for MU.
“Do you want to see 25 percent?” Rooney asked a crowded Jesse Wrench Auditorium before plugging the number into a spreadsheet that calculated the MU budget.
“No,” responded the standing-room-only crowd. But in an instant, displayed on a large white screen was how much of a deficit MU would run in its fiscal year 2010 general operations budget if no reductions are made: $52.7 million to $58.6 million.
Groans and hushed conversations followed.
Administrators aren’t sure how they will respond to these potential cuts. UM System President Gary Forsee must file a statement to the state Department of Higher Education by Thursday that indicates how the system would operate under each budget scenario.
Chancellor Brady Deaton said he has read and offered input on a draft of that statement.
Forsee sent an e-mail to faculty, staff and students on Dec. 10 seeking their suggestions for ways to cope with the cuts. Since then, nearly 400 responses have been submitted to the chancellor’s office, Deaton said.
“There is no aspect of our general operations budget that is not on the table for consideration and reconsideration,” Deaton said.
Energy savings has received 86 responses, the most of any category. Many recommended resetting buildings’ heating and cooling levels, a suggestion that Deaton approved Tuesday at a meeting with his staff.
To save about $120,000 per year, thermostats will be set at 70 degrees in the winter instead of 72 degrees and at 76 degrees in the summer instead of 74 degrees, Deaton said.
With 47 suggestions of savings measures, MU’s athletics budget was the subject of what Deaton called “intense” scrutiny by faculty, who noted football coach Gary Pinkel’s recently approved annual salary of $2.3 million.
Deaton said the athletics budget is mostly self-supporting and receives only marginal support from the operating budget. As for Pinkel’s salary, he said, it was negotiated at the time to be competitive with coaches’ salaries at peer institutions.
Other suggestions for savings included tapping into the $1 billion raised in the “For All We Call Mizzou” campaign.
But Deaton said the $1 billion “really isn’t that flexible,” as 97 percent of it is restricted for specific uses.
Deaton also admitted that the priority level of Compete Missouri, which he said had once been at the top of his list, has been “dampened” slightly over recent months. Compete Missouri, introduced in 2007, aims to raise faculty salaries by securing $2 million in fiscal year 2010 from state funds, an amount that is then matched by MU.
Deaton said he will continue to host open faculty meetings as long as the faculty has questions; he said he also plans to include staff and students in the ongoing discussions.