University of Southern Maine faces $14 million budget shortfall

Theo Kalikow speaks with the press in Portland in this July 2012 file photo.
Theo Kalikow speaks with the press in Portland in this July 2012 file photo. Buy Photo
Posted Feb. 06, 2014, at 6:23 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — University of Southern Maine President Theo Kalikow announced Thursday the school faces a $14 million budget deficit — representing 10 percent of the school’s operating budget — for the coming fiscal year.

In a statement released Thursday evening to the Bangor Daily News, Kalikow was not specific about what is causing the budget gap at USM, suggesting only that the school is suffering from the same troubling trends plaguing university finances across the country.

“The perils are well-known in higher ed nationwide: Enrollment challenges, rising costs, decreasing revenues and increasingly intense competition,” Kalikow said, in part.

The projected budget shortfall is for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

USM spokesman Robert Caswell confirmed that a 32-member advisory board — including faculty members, university staff and representatives of the outside community — has been formed to investigate ways to resolve the crisis and will file a report with Kalikow at the end of the month.

“We’re asking ourselves what we need to emphasize, what we can do differently, and how we can differentiate ourselves from competitors,” Kalikow said in her statement. “We’ll begin to have answers in about a month. We’re not going to prejudge the planning process underway by discussing possible solutions and outcomes.

“Rest assured that our goal is to do what’s right by our students and Maine taxpayers, and deliver a high-quality, relevant education as effectively and efficiently as possible,” she continued.

In her statement, Kalikow noted that George Mehaffy, a vice president with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, provided an optimistic outlook on USM’s future during a visit to the school last week.

“Mehaffy pointed out … there’s promise and opportunity, too,” Kalikow said. “USM’s strategic advantage, he said, is our location in the economic and population center of the state, and the opportunities to strengthen further our ties to the region’s cultural, civic and economic life.”

The current financial crisis comes less than a year after university leaders were left scrambling to cut between $4 million and $5 million in spending to close a previous budget gap.

While both Kalikow and Caswell declined to speculate on the results of the advisory panel’s work this time around, reiterating a desire not to “prejudge” the group’s efforts, the solution to last year’s budget problem involved layoffs at the school, closing and consolidating facilities, and curbing spending on travel, supplies and fuel.

 

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