COLUMBIA — MU plans to eliminate up to 400 positions in response to declining enrollment and state funding for fiscal year 2018, Interim Chancellor and Provost Garnett Stokes said at a campus budget forum Monday. Most of the positions are either already vacant or filled by employees planning to retire or resign.

Total layoffs are expected to be fewer than 100, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Patty Haberberger told an audience of about 185. The exact number of layoffs and who will be affected won’t be disclosed until final decisions are released June 2 out of respect to those personnel, MU Vice Chancellor for Finance Rhonda Gibler said.

“I know folks would really like us to say about exactly what’s happening,” Gibler said. “You want us to be able to say here’s the number and here’s the people, but if you happen to be one of those people, you’d prefer not to have it go down that way.”

MU’s budget proposal calls for a 12 percent cut for each division on campus, which adds up to about $55 million. That total is a combination of declining revenues and increasing expenditures.

An expected decline of 7.5 percent in total enrollment and a 6.5 percent cut in state funding will reduce MU’s revenue by $24 million for fiscal year 2018, even after accounting for a 2.1 percent tuition increase, Stokes said.

On top of that, a combination of unavoidable expenses and strategic investments raises costs by $31.4 million, she said. 

Within each division, leaders have discretion on how to implement the 12 percent cut. 

The forum included questions from attendees submitted online and selected during the meeting.  

In response to one question, Stokes said the plan is unlikely to include reductions in administrative salaries. Administrators are hired on competitive rates, she said, and salary reductions aren’t the best strategic move.

“There are leaders who would say in a heartbeat ‘I would take a cut if it would save somebody’s job,’” Stokes said. “But I will tell you that as a strategy in the long run, it’s not been found to be the most effective strategy for really thinking about the institution’s future.”

Joseph Moore, outreach officer for the Coalition of Graduate Workers at MU, said he was skeptical of the administration’s desire to take genuine questions or criticism. 

“We were pretty disappointed with the format,” Moore said about the way questions were screened.

“It wasn’t really designed to be a forum to solicit feedback and input on the budget process. It was more of ‘This is how the budget process is going to go. These are our priorities. Do you have any questions?’”

The four UM System campuses are expected to submit their budget proposals on Friday to system President Mun Choi. Any potential feedback from the forum must make its way into the proposal before that date.

MU is working hard to consider any feedback, Stokes told reporters after the forum. Just as important is using the forum to help develop a plan for the long-term future, she said.

Monday’s forum was the first of two held to discuss MU’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. The second forum is at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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