University of Maine may cut up to 100 positions

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff
Posted March 26, 2009, at 11:11 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Up to 100 positions could be eliminated next year as the University of Maine attempts to cut more than $8.8 million from its budget in Fiscal Year 2010, which begins July 1.

Janet Waldron, UMaine’s vice president for administration and finance, told about 150 people gathered Thursday afternoon for the first of two open budget information sessions that although some of those positions now are unfilled and will remain so, around 20 employees could be laid off.

“Ongoing budget shortfalls mean you really have to, in an ongoing manner, reduce your expenditures,” she said at Wells Conference Center. “So that is why … the answers to that need to be ongoing reductions, and there will be reductions to the work force.”

After a breakdown of past, current and projected numbers, Waldron said 80 to 100 positions, some of which are now vacant, could be up for elimination. Twenty positions were eliminated when the Cutler Health Center was privatized, and 20 more now filled positions will be eliminated.

The university has around 2,500 employees.

The Cutler Health Center move was one of the cost-saving measures UMaine was able to implement this year that will be reflected in the FY10 budget. The university will save more than $1,850,000 in the coming fiscal year by Cutler Health Center privatization ($500,000), energy procurement savings ($1,150,000) and other savings ($203,000).

The remaining $7 million deficit will be passed on to the departments in the education and general, or E&G, budget. Based on budget numbers from the current fiscal year, the department under the vice president for academic affairs and provost will be asked to make the biggest cut at $4.9 million, although that department now has the biggest budget at $123.3 million, or 57.2 percent of the E&G budget.

Among the unknown issues that could affect UMaine’s overall budget are enrollment and retention of current students, state appropriation, collective bargaining and investment income.

UMaine also is expecting to receive some funds this year through the federal economic stimulus package, Waldron said, although how much is unclear now. The systemwide stimulus fund total was estimated at $6.5 million. UMaine President Robert Kennedy said stimulus money could be redirected to financial aid.

Waldron also broke down some of the issues that have led to UMaine’s budget deficit, including curtailment of state appropriations, investment income reduction, a forecast decrease in enrollment, and loss in endowment payouts.

Early retirements may be explored as UMaine begins the collective bargaining process with its unions, Waldron said, as are 10-month work years for some employees.

The Computer Connection store, a nonprofit arm of UMaine’s information technology department located in Memorial Union, recently was recommended for elimination by a consultant, but Waldron said officials have not decided yet whether to close it.

In response to an audience question about whether furlough days could help avoid layoffs, Waldron said she didn’t believe furlough days were a solution because they are a one-time savings. Kennedy himself worked five days without pay this year, UMaine spokesman Joe Carr said. At last count, UMaine System spokesman John Diamond said, a total of 37 system employees, including all seven campus presidents, decided to forgo five days’ pay.

Kennedy, who attended the session, said he appreciated employees’ willingness to listen.

“We’ve been in that mode of cutting and reallocating [for several years],” he said. “All the while, [the fact that] we’ve had very good things happening with our enrollment, increased programs and service to the state makes it just a little bit harder in light of the cuts we’ve had to make.”

Waldron will give the same presentation from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, March 30, also in Wells Conference Center.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/26/news/university-of-maine-may-cut-up-to-100-positions/ printed on July 24, 2014