UMaine System budget shortfall prompts president of Orono campus to send letter warning of cuts

By Nell Gluckman, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 21, 2014, at 8:31 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The president of the University of Maine sent a letter to faculty and other employees on Friday warning them of impending budget cuts on the Orono campus stemming from a $36 million shortfall affecting the University of Maine System in fiscal year 2015.

UMaine’s portion of the systemwide budget gap is $11 million, which represents 4.8 percent of the university’s annual budget, president Paul Ferguson said in the emailed letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Bangor Daily News.

“Current budget meetings are under way with all areas of the campus to understand needs and the implications of potential reductions,” Ferguson wrote in the emailed letter. A team of administrators will visit each of the university’s colleges and the UMS staff to figure out where the cuts will come from, he wrote.

The shortfall for the system in 2015 is 7 percent of the total UMS budget, with individual campus budget gaps ranging from 4.6 percent to 15.1 percent, Ferguson wrote. A final budget for each of the system’s seven campuses must be presented to the UMS board of trustees in May.

At a November meeting of the system’s trustees, university presidents were given a presentation about the systemwide budget gap, which set the tone for how individual campuses would address the problem, according to UMS Chancellor James Page.

“Our office has been working with each of the campuses for years,” on budget issues, Page said Friday, referring to shortfalls dating back to at least the mid-2000s.

If spending continues the way it is now, the system will be $70 to $90 million in debt in five years, according to the November meeting materials.

Ferguson pointed out in his letter four causes of the Orono campus’ financial situation.

— The state has flat-funded the system for three years.

— The board of trustees froze tuition for in-state undergraduate students from fiscal year 2013 to 2015.

— Enrollment has declined.

— Compensation for faculty and staff has increased as the result of collective bargaining.

Ferguson said in his letter the budget gap affecting the Orono campus was initially $24 million, but UMaine’s existing Blue Sky Plan, which has produced new sources of academic and research revenue, reduced it to $11 million.

Ferguson said the needs of students will be the dominant factor in deciding which programs and positions are to be cut in the coming months.

“The majority of cost savings for FY15 will come from not filling vacant faculty and staff positions, and downsizing or eliminating a number of administrative programs while maintaining a commitment to preserving those positions and programs essential to and serving our students,” Ferguson’s letter said.

Responding to a request from the BDN for more information, Ferguson said in an email, “The letter to the community today was the initial communication to set out basic information and to set the stage for campus community conversations over the next several weeks. In those meetings, we will share more specific information that directly applies to campus units.”

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2014/02/21/news/bangor/umaine-system-budget-shortfall-prompts-president-of-orono-campus-to-send-letter-warning-of-cuts/ printed on July 23, 2014