Departments find innovative ways to save MU money

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – MU is tightening its belt this spring with cuts big and small to the campus budget, limiting a range of expenses from coffee at meetings to roses at graduation. 

All divisions were asked in January to prune $5.2 million in nonpayroll items such as travel, equipment and supplies this fiscal year. In the end, the cuts will save the university $100,000 more than requested.


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Almost every division needed to trim 5.6 percent of its budget, with dollar amounts ranging from $9,405 for the Chancellor's Office to $661,00 for the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Overall, equipment is taking the biggest hit with almost 24 percent of the total, or $1.26 million, mostly for office furnishings and technology.

Travel for all divisions has been cut $1.068 million, about 20 percent of the total, with attendance at dozens of conferences canceled, including those for members of the athletics department.

Cutting supplies comprises almost 15 percent of the total, or about $785,000. Most divisions are simply cutting back on office supplies, but some are eliminating coffee service at meetings and others are posting newsletters online only.

Across the board, most furniture, computing and supply purchases have been delayed. For instance, Campus Facilities has canceled replacement purchases of paper towel dispensers, a snow plow truck and 18 computers.

"The equipment has probably reached life expectancy and needs to be replaced, but given the current budget, purchases will not be made in this fiscal year," said Phil Shocklee, associate director of Campus Facilities.

"We will just have to live without them. I'd like to say that these things are suspended and we are still going to be able to make these purchases sometime in the future," Shocklee said.

Administrative Services has been cutting coffee and water at human resource training sessions to save $1,750.

Divisions are also trimming the number of pages in their reports and magazines. The Chancellors Annual Report will be reduced in both size and distribution to save $5,000.

Faculty travel to conferences has been canceled or reduced in virtually every department, unless seen as highly beneficial to the university. For instance, the College of Human Environmental Sciences canceled conference travel for the dean and three faculty members, saving the university $3,860.

Departments are also finding more innovative ways to tighten their budgets.

The School of Nursing faculty now must buy or lease their own apparel for graduation, and roses will no longer be provided at the ceremony.

The annual School of Law faculty dinner will now be a potluck, saving the department $4,000.

A number of university publications are becoming online only, including the Alumni Campaign Newsletter and internal staff publications from the College of Engineering. The Trulaske College of Business and School of Journalism, among others, intend to reduce copying and printing as well.

Division heads, such as College of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael O'Brien, explained that deans were instructed to look at specific categories of their budget.

"We were given guidelines and we followed those," O'Brien said. "It's always difficult to come up with money."

He said that the departmental chairs worked together to find reductions that would keep students the No. 1 priority.

"Anything that had to do with instruction, we would never touch," O'Brien added.

MU's Budget Director Tim Rooney said funding from state and federal sources was still uncertain, but students won't be hit with higher tuition and fees.

"We now know that we will not increase tuition," Rooney said. "That's one of the things we know. These things that they are cutting out of their budgets are going to hurt. None of this is trivial, but it is necessitated by the circumstances that we have."


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