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Campus Facilities, IT limit spending to meet cuts

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | 2:33 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA – Campus Facilities took the biggest hit in terms of percentages this month when MU administrators targeted cuts for non-payroll expenses.

The 6.7 percent reduction for Campus Facilities through this fiscal year is $600,000. Most other divisions lost 5.6 percent of their budgets, including the Division of Information Technology, which also serves the entire campus.

To meet the cuts, both divisions have trimmed travel and supply purchases. Campus Facilities is considering changes in building maintenance, and the Division of Information Technology is extending the life of computers and other equipment.

Associate Director of Campus Facilities Phil Shocklee said he wasn’t given an explanation but said he believes he understands the reason his office took a larger cut.

“Campus Facilities is a large organization and has a fairly large budget, so it was probably due to that,” he said.

The division began saving in November after a hiring freeze was announced. Assistant Vice Chancellor of Facilities Gary Ward initiated a freeze on travel, equipment and other supply purchases.

“We’re looking at savings any and everywhere possible,” Shocklee said. “Not purchasing vehicles, computers and putting a freeze on traveling.”

Without giving details yet, he said some building maintenance could be halted, although routine items for general maintenance are still being purchased and used.

"Evaluations are being made to see if certain building maintenance might be put on hold," Shocklee said.

Although the current situation forces them to cut back on spending, he said Campus Facilities would continue to operate in a financially responsible manner even after returning to normal operations.

“We would still operate as efficiently as we can,” he said. “Any opening we have, we evaluate to see if there is a need at that time. The same is true with equipment and supplies.”

The Division of Information Technology saw a budget reduction of $65,196. IT Director Terry Robb said the office was stretching hardware to last bit longer and cutting back on supplies.

“A few weeks ago after the chancellor sent his letter (Jan. 14), we began assessing every cost,” Robb said.

While IT is looking for ways to cut cost, Robb said the division will continue to update computer sites for students who students pay for it as a portion of their fees.

Robb said the IT is beginning a communication campaign called Technology for Tight Budgets to help the  university as a whole.

“It will emphasize conference calls, video conferencing, training and use of SharePoint for collaboration,” Robb said. “The campaign will help people use technology to reduce costs.”

A tentative campaign schedule includes an open house in March where IT representatives will talk about technology that meets budget constraints.

As for the future, both Robb and Shocklee have reservations about whether this is the end of the budget cuts.

“Honestly, I don’t know about the future,” Shocklee said. “It depends on the economy and the university budget overall.”

“Given the economy, I’m very pessimistic,” Robb said. “I would guess the economy will have a long term impact.”


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