UM layoffs, cuts total $8.8 million

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff
Posted May 15, 2009, at 12:40 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine has found a way to balance its budget for the coming fiscal year, but not without layoffs affecting 32 employees, plus reductions in hours for other employees, and cuts to programs in most areas of the UMaine System’s flagship campus.

Click here for a list of positions to be cut.

UMaine President Robert Kennedy and Vice President for Administration and Finance Janet Waldron announced on Friday layoffs and other reductions made in an effort to cut $8.8 million from the UM budget for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins July 1.

It was an announcement that the UMaine administrators said they had anticipated, but one they dreaded.

“We have known this day was coming,” Kennedy said Friday afternoon in an interview at Buchanan Alumni House. “We probably didn’t know the full extent and how we would deal with it.”

The layoffs, reductions and program cuts take effect July 1, although some layoffs in the Cutler Health Center have already gone into effect.

In addition to the layoffs, the hours of 31 employees will be reduced and 77 other positions that are currently vacant due to retirements or employees leaving for other jobs will not be filled.

All told, the cuts affect 140 positions. That pushed the number of faculty, professional and hourly positions eliminated in the last three years to more than 200, equal to a work force reduction in that time period of about 10 percent.

The personnel changes will reduce the university’s salaries and benefits budget by $5.8 million. In addition, department heads and managers have taken measures to cut their operating budgets by $1.7 million by reducing areas such as supplies, service, maintenance, travel, equipment and other expenses.

The remaining $1.3 million of the overall deficit will be achieved through administrative efficiencies. The biggest chunk will be related to management of energy costs through improved purchasing mechanisms and conservation.

The total budget for the coming fiscal year is $248 million, which Waldron said was relatively unchanged from last year.

UMaine’s state appropriation will be down about 3.6 percent from last year. That lag, in addition to declining returns on investments due to the global economic crisis, contributed to UMaine’s deficit.

Waldron said the university looked at central functions first before looking at academic programs.

Waldron and her staff met with deans, department heads and student government officials and held public forums as they put together the budget.

“We tried to find those areas centrally as much as we can, to try to reduce off the top before we went out into the academic areas to assign budgetary targets to the various colleges and other academic areas,” she said.

Every unit in the university was hit with budget cuts, Kennedy and Waldron said, with the exception of some library services, financial aid and graduate programs.

The president does have the authority to hire employees, Waldron added, but hiring will be done strategically.

The school’s professional (salaried) staff members were the hardest hit, with 15 positions eliminated, including 10 at the Cutler Health Center that were cut when the school transferred the center’s operations to the private Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Five faculty positions were cut, including the loss of four coaches whose jobs were eliminated when UMaine suspended its volleyball and men’s soccer programs. Another faculty layoff affected a person in the College of Engineering. The remaining 12 layoffs affected hourly employees, including eight who were Cutler Health Center staff.

John Pavliska, the president of the clerical workers union at UMaine and a receiving clerk at the university’s bookstore, said the layoff numbers were surprisingly low.

“I was hoping for smaller numbers, but expecting big numbers,” he said. “I’m totally shocked. I really am. I figured around 100 [people] but apparently they’ve done well adjusting the budget. I’m surprised and happy for my members. It’s good news.”

The work-year reductions, which in some cases mean employees will work 10 months instead of 12, will affect 31 positions. The reductions will occur in around 20 departments, including conference services, the Bureau of Labor Education, the Women’s Resource Center, the Franco-American Centre, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the counseling center.

Pavliska said he was also pleased to learn the human resources department was giving reduced-hour employees a choice of how they want to take their reduced hours. He said employees can take off one month at a time or work half-days.

Of the 77 vacant positions being eliminated, 43 are faculty or adjunct faculty, 17 are professional staff and 17 are hourly staff.

Other cuts have come in the form of eliminated or reduced programs or services (see box for sample list). Clerical or office support will also be reduced in some areas.

The Computer Connection, a nonprofit, noncommission technology store in Memorial Union, will remain open this year, Waldron said, but will be examined in the coming year as part of a close look at purchasing procedures. The Maine Campus student newspaper reported last month the store had been recommended for closure.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

990-8287

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/05/15/news/bangor/um-layoffs-cuts-total-88-million/ printed on October 2, 2014