MU Provost gives few details about spending cut

Thursday, January 15, 2009 | 7:02 p.m. CST; updated 7:08 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — MU Provost Brian Foster has advice for university administrators who are crunching numbers and clicking through spreadsheets.

“Take a look at every dollar you spend,” he said.

At a half-hour press conference squeezed between budget meetings Thursday, Foster explained the memo sent to campus chancellors on Wednesday that detailed areas where spending should be “significantly” reduced.

Foster’s message was: “We will balance the budget.” How MU administrators specifically plan to do so remains unclear.

Foster gave no detailed expectations Thursday for amounts or percentages of spending cuts he expected departments to make, nor did he give a timetable for reductions.

He did say there would be “central monitoring” to ensure MU colleges and departments are slimming down expenditures. University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee’s memo instructed chancellors to curtail spending immediately.

Foster said he wasn’t requesting plans from MU colleges and departments for how they are going to trim their budgets.

“We’re not going to ask them to give us comprehensive plans. What we’re doing is monitoring their resources,” Foster said. “So many of these decisions will have to be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Although it is not known how much can be saved from spending reductions, Foster said he hoped it would be a significant amount.

“We hope to have several million dollars by the end of this fiscal year, by July 1, from this particular set of savings,” Foster said. He said he would be continually assessing the effectiveness of spending reductions in the coming months.

Much of what Foster said reinforced what MU Chancellor Brady Deaton wrote in a memo sent to MU administrators Wednesday evening.

“Even in the face of economic difficulties, students continue to choose MU for a world-class education, and we will continue to provide that to them,” Deaton said in the memo.

Foster reiterated the point.

“Chancellor Deaton is incredibly committed to continuing to move this university forward, to continue to do the things it takes to make this a great place,” Foster said. “We want to continue to do things we need to do to make (MU) a great university.”

The UM System has been bracing itself for the possibility of fewer state dollars this year and potentially deep funding cuts in fiscal 2010.

“The budget is a work in progress. We don’t know what our resources are going to be next year,” Foster said.

The UM System instituted a hiring freeze Nov. 14 and submitted a report to the Missouri Department of Higher Education in December that listed scenarios of 15, 20 and 25 percent cuts in state funding that included layoffs and tuition hikes.

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