UMS board gets task force update

Posted March 16, 2009, at 9:34 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The task force looking into the future functions and structure of the University of Maine System faces a “formidable undertaking,” chairman David Flanagan told the UMaine System’s board of trustees Monday afternoon at the UMS offices.

“But I do believe that Maine’s problems and challenges are manageable if we deal with them in good faith, factually and openly,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan made a scheduled report on the task force’s progress during the financial-facilities committee session before the board of trustees’ bimonthly meeting.

The 12-member “New Challenges, New Directions” task force, part of Chancellor Richard Pattenaude’s initiative to deal with a projected $42.8 million shortfall in the next four years, is in a fact-gathering phase. So far, the task force has made 42 information requests, held 18 meetings and taken comments from 228 people, Flanagan said.

Some of the issues that have emerged include concerns about whether the chancellor’s and system offices can provide timely and cost-efficient services, questions about how funds are allocated, and challenges about the current missions of the system’s units.

“[Another] theme we heard over and over again [was] intramural competition among the campuses with no discernable rules of the road,” Flanagan said.

The task force also will review self-assessments from the presidents of the seven system campuses and the system office and meet with experts from several fields. The task force is expected to write up its findings in June for presentation by the beginning of July.

“I have no talent for sugar-coating things,” said Flanagan, the former CEO of Central Maine Power Co. and a former UMS trustee. “I hope that we will come up with a report at the end that is useful to you.”

Flanagan, who will go before the board again during its May 18 meeting, told the board it has the power to make sure the report is acted upon.

“The tool you have available to you is the budget-setting authority,” he replied. “That’s what I would use to ensure the outcome of this initiative.”

The board also heard a financial report from Rebecca Wyke, vice chancellor for finance and administration, who said the system is forecasting an overall operating loss of $14.1 million for Fiscal Year 2009 and a $15.8 million shortfall in temporary investment income as a result of the global financial crisis.

Monday’s meeting was the first in a new one-day format designed as a cost-cutting measure. Previous board meetings were held over two days.

The board also:

ä Approved the creation of the Acadia Professorship of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. The position is funded through a $250,000 gift from the Acadia Hospital in Bangor and will support a teaching and research position related to the care of people with mental health or substance dependency. The position will be at the University of Maine.

ä Approved construction at UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin to increase research and development capacity. The project will be fully funded through a $1.9 million grant from the Maine Technology Institute.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

990-8287

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