University plans layoffs to cover $5.9M gap

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff
Posted March 30, 2010, at 9:37 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine is facing a projected $5.9 million shortfall in the budget for the next school year, part of which will be addressed through staff reductions including eight layoffs, a UMaine administrator said Tuesday.

“Next year is improved from where we started,” Janet Waldron, UMaine vice president for finance and administration, said during the first of the university’s budget workshop sessions. “The [following] years are extremely serious and are going to be very difficult, and will require strategic decision making by the institution. At this point, I don’t think any of us can see yet how we’re going to balance the budgets.”

The budget cuts Waldron discussed Tuesday are unrelated to the cuts announced last week in the Academic Program Prioritization Working Group report, which called for a reduction of $12.3 million from the academic affairs budget for fiscal year 2012, which is the school year that starts July 1, 2011.

The $5.9 million in cuts discussed Tuesday are for fiscal year 2011, which is the next school year that starts July 1, 2010.

Waldron gave her presentation in the Wells Conference Center, where on Monday hundreds gathered to question and protest the academic program cuts. The audience Tuesday was more sedate with about 75 administrators and faculty. Few, if any, students appeared to be in attendance.

Waldron will give the same presentation from 10 a.m. to noon today. The sessions are open to the public.

After Tuesday’s session ended, Waldron said the budget projection for the upcoming year is $216 million, up from $213 million in the current year. The $3 million difference was the amount the state took last fall via curtailment of its appropriation to the system.

The budget predictions assume a 5.5 percent tuition increase, subject to the approval of the UMaine System board of trustees, which sets systemwide tuition rates.
Should the increase be approved, an in-state undergraduate student could expect to pay $926 more per 30-credit school year.

Waldron said she is hoping the budget can be balanced through cuts of $3.9 million in the provost and research areas; $957,434 from the president’s area which includes facilities management and athletics; $695,943 from administration and finance; $183,160 from student affairs; and $149,665 from development.

A little more than half of the $5.9 million shortfall — about $2.96 million — will be addressed in salary and wage reductions.

A total of 74 positions, or the equivalent of 52.78 full-time positions, which is the measure used by the university, will be affected. The bulk of those will come in retirements, resignations or frozen positions, although 15 are listed as reductions, which means the position’s hours will be reduced, and eight more are listed as layoffs.

Twenty-one positions will come from the faculty, while 28 will come from the professional ranks and 25 from classified employees.

“The reduction of faculty and staff across the institution … will mean an increase in workload, realignment elsewhere, and an elimination of some functions, just as you’d expect,” Waldron said. “We want to minimize that as much as possible in terms of the impact on students, but you can only go so far.”

Students may notice cuts to some departments next year in the form of fewer available sections of required classes, especially in departments that rely heavily on part-time and adjunct faculty.

Jeff Hecker, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said recently the college will spend about $150,000 less next year for adjuncts and overload teaching for regular faculty. The college spends about $1.5 million in a typical academic year for those expenses.

The college intends to better estimate the number of seats needed in essential classes, raise class sizes of some courses, and decrease the number of elective upper-level classes offered, Hecker added, to offset the loss of faculty.

Professor Naomi Jacobs, who is chairwoman of the English department, said last week she faces a 20 percent funding cut for part-time faculty. That means the department will be at least seven sections short in classes such as English 101, creative writing and professional writing.

“I understand why our college made this decision, but the money is shrinking and we’re very concerned,” Jacobs said.

Art professor and department chairwoman Susan Groce said her department isn’t losing any adjuncts, although art is down several positions and won’t get any relief in the fall.

Groce said the department’s majors will get the courses they need, but the estimated 500 nonmajors who take art classes to fulfill UMaine’s general education requirements could be affected.

“So much has to do with the big picture, looking at [budget cuts] in totality,” Groce said. “You’re pulling one fine, important thread, but there’s many threads being pulled out simultaneously … until you create holes in the fabric, and everybody feels it.”
The department of communication and journalism will lose its four adjuncts, which professor and chairman Paul Grosswiler said last week was due to other budget issues not directly related to the 2011 cuts.

Overall, budget-gap predictions for UMaine are dire for the three years after 2011 with the university looking at a shortfall of $25.2 million. Of that, nearly $12.3 million will be addressed through the academic working group’s proposed budget cuts with $2.9 million more coming from the provost and research areas.

To view Waldron’s budget presentation, go to www.umaine.edu/admin_finance/files/2009/07/UMaine-FY11-budget-presentation.pdf

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/03/30/news/bangor/university-plans-layoffs-to-cover-59m-gap/ printed on April 24, 2014