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MU faculty seeks answers as chancellor provides few specifics on budget cuts

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | 8:18 p.m. CST; updated 11:22 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Victoria Johnson, associate professor of sociology, listens to Chancellor Brady Deaton speak at a general faculty meeting in Jesse Wrench Auditorium on Dec. 17. Deaton addressed faculty concerns stemming from the current state of the economy and from potential budget cuts of up to 25 percent.

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.


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Comments

Ayn Rand December 18, 2008 | 7:59 a.m.

So what if 97 percent of the “For All We Call Mizzou” funds are reserved for specific uses? That's still $1 billion going to MU. Is Deaton saying that even with some programs getting extra money from FAWCM, MU still can't handle a 25 percent cut? Or is there something else we haven't been told about FAWCM? For example, have some donors not been able to make good on their pledges because of the economy?

Good luck crying poverty when you've got a Taj Mahal rec center and the money to build dorms nicer than many apartments.

(Report Comment)
Debbie Taylor December 18, 2008 | 8:18 a.m.

I find it fiscally irresponsible to commit to a $70mil purchase of land in Blue Springs when we are in such financial dire straits. I realize that research is paramount at the University of Missouri - I am not that naive. However, given the current economic conditions nationwide, I believe this was a poor decision, and shows a lack of commitment to all of the employees of the UM System. I know, it was in the works for a year. Many of us have had plans for over a year (for a vacation, a new car, a new home) and have had to do without when circumstances change - the University should have done the same.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 18, 2008 | 8:23 a.m.

And if it's MU rather than UM paying for the land, then it should be spent here, not in Blue Springs. If UMKC wants to rise above its commuter college status, then let it fund the BS research park.

(Report Comment)
Jennifer May December 18, 2008 | 8:51 a.m.

What I really cannot let slip by is the following:
"“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."
This behavior is irresponsible. Don't belly-ache about the problems if you don't want to be a part of the solution. You must know the FACTS to be part of the solution!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 18, 2008 | 8:51 a.m.

The public may not have a clear understanding of the status of the $1 billion raised by MU or the $200 million now being raised by Missouri S&T. This money is pledged but most of it not currently recoverable: it is tied to estates and will be available upon someone's death. In other words, these gifts are a very good thing for the two campuses, but in most cases they are NOT immediately recoverable.

As far as poor timing goes, earlier in this new century we witnessed a large shortfall in university funding at the same time the then university president and MU chancellor were in Jefferson City lobbying the legislature for bonds to build a basketball arena, when MU already had a satisfactory facility in which to play basketball.

At the same time, the then university president was talking about having to shut down one of the university's four campuses (but we could build a basketball arena).

Do you actually expect things to make sense at this university? Some of us have long ago given up on that quaint notion.

(Report Comment)
Tim Lloyd December 18, 2008 | 10:19 a.m.

Hello Everyone,

I'm a reporter with the Missourian and I would very much like to cover the faculty response to potential cuts. If you feel comfortable speaking with a reporter regarding your concerns, please send an email with your contact information to, tslbba@mizzou.edu.

We don’t want coverage of this issue to be one sided, and please help us include your voice.

Thank You,

Tim Lloyd

(Report Comment)
Tara Cavanaugh December 18, 2008 | 11:27 a.m.

I'm a reporter at the Missourian, and I've created a web site where you can have a more complete conversation about MU's budget cuts.

It's http://mizzoucutsforum.ning.com/, and it's very easy to sign up and use.

You can talk about your experiences, and let us know about other stories we should be investigating.

Thanks!
Tara Cavanaugh

(Report Comment)
Mike Sykuta December 18, 2008 | 1:35 p.m.

Another missing point on the For All We Call Mizzou Campaign: That campaign lasted several years. The $1B is not all "future" money, but includes money that was donated or granted--and SPENT--over the past six years. The idea that there is $1B sitting out there somewhere to tap into is, I believe, grossly inaccurate.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 18, 2008 | 1:46 p.m.

Thanks for clarifying, Ellis and Mike.

Does anybody know if the $1 billion includes interest that was earned on money that was donated -- as opposed to being promised -- in the campaign's early period?

(Report Comment)
David Mariott December 18, 2008 | 2:03 p.m.

I just wanted to clarify some of the misconceptions posted here. Both the Student Recreation Center and the Department of Residence Life are auxiliaries within the University, and do not rely upon state appropriations because they're self-supporting.

Students at Mizzou voted earlier this decade for a new student fee to pay for the construction and maintenance of the Student Recreation Center. That money doesn't come from state appropriations, but rather a fee that students pay each semester.

Most residence life departments, including the one at Mizzou, are also self-supporting, and so any new construction is paid by the department through the housing rent that students pay. I'm not sure the specifics at Mizzou, but some schools have long-term leases and use this rent to pay those leases. Again, this isn't money that comes from state appropriations, but rather from the students that choose to live in those facilities.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 18, 2008 | 2:22 p.m.

Well, Timothy Lloyd, we're glad to hear that you don't want your faculty coverage concerning views about the cutbacks to be one-sided. That certainly wouldn't be good journalism.

So, we assume that your coverage and any interviews with faculty will definitely include a SIGNIFICANT number of faculty members from the Missouri S&T, UMKC and UMSL campuses.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 18, 2008 | 2:42 p.m.

So it's reasonable to expect students and/or their parents to pay more for dorms and recreation but not for tuition? Heck, if you're willing to pay more for a dorm room and a gym, then as a taxpayer, I expect you to be willing to pay more for what you're there for in the first place.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin December 18, 2008 | 3:32 p.m.

Not sure the student fees for Rec center, et. al. are being handled all that well, either:

Thursday, October 2, 2008
DEATON DOWNER: MU Students Cry Foul Over Athletics "Tax"
http://columbiaheartbeat.blogspot.com/20...

(Report Comment)
Tim Lloyd December 18, 2008 | 4:14 p.m.

Ellis Smith,

Thank you for your post.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with any faculty member from any department at any campus in the UM System.

If you are interested in speaking with me, please send your contact information to tslbba@mizzou.edu.

Thank You,

Tim Lloyd

(Report Comment)
Tom Henderson December 22, 2008 | 10:21 a.m.

I would like to respond to what is a misperception concerning MU supposedly investing $70 million in a new Blue Springs Business Park. In fact, the aforementioned investment in the total 500 acre park will be made by the Blue Springs Economic Development Corporation through an industrial development authority. MU will simply be a leasehold tenant in one facility in the Business Park and will not make any capital investment in the park or the facility. The facility's business plan calls for financing of the facility through new revenue streams and the redirection of existing expenditures being made by MU in the KC area. I hope this clarifies MU's role in the park.

Tom Henderson
Assistant to the Provost for Economic Development

(Report Comment)
Anonymous Reader December 29, 2008 | 12:45 p.m.

Mr. Henderson, MU has entered an agreement with the Blue Springs Business Park, correct? How much will MU contribute of the initial investment of $70million? Are we to believe that Blue Springs is going to pay the whole thing out of the goodness of their hearts?

(Report Comment)

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