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University of Maine to cut 61 positions, dip into savings to address $9.7 million shortfall

Posted March 28, 2014, at 8:17 a.m.
Last modified March 28, 2014, at 5:37 p.m.

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University of Maine President Paul Ferguson welcomes staff and faculty members to a budget meeting on Friday morning to explain changes at the university.
University of Maine President Paul Ferguson welcomes staff and faculty members to a budget meeting on Friday morning to explain changes at the university. Buy Photo
Richard Brucher, chair of the English department at UMaine in Orono, asks University of Maine President Paul Ferguson about open faculty positions and when they will be filled in light of budget cuts being put in to place during a campus meeting on Friday.
Richard Brucher, chair of the English department at UMaine in Orono, asks University of Maine President Paul Ferguson about open faculty positions and when they will be filled in light of budget cuts being put in to place during a campus meeting on Friday. Buy Photo
Staff and faculty members attend a campus meeting on the UMaine budget where UMaine President Paul Ferguson and other UMaine leaders outlined changes.
Staff and faculty members attend a campus meeting on the UMaine budget where UMaine President Paul Ferguson and other UMaine leaders outlined changes. Buy Photo
Justin Hafford from the division of lifelong learning at UMaine in Orono asks University of Maine President Paul Ferguson about budget cuts during a campus meeting on Friday.
Justin Hafford from the division of lifelong learning at UMaine in Orono asks University of Maine President Paul Ferguson about budget cuts during a campus meeting on Friday. Buy Photo
University of Maine President Paul Ferguson answers questions from faculty and staff about the university's budget and vacant positions during a meeting on campus Friday morning.
University of Maine President Paul Ferguson answers questions from faculty and staff about the university's budget and vacant positions during a meeting on campus Friday morning. Buy Photo
A staff member attending a meeting on the UMaine budget reads an overview of the budget shortfall unveiled in a presentation by university leaders on Friday.
A staff member attending a meeting on the UMaine budget reads an overview of the budget shortfall unveiled in a presentation by university leaders on Friday. Buy Photo
Staff and faculty members attending a campus meeting on the UMaine budget in which university leaders outline changes.
Staff and faculty members attending a campus meeting on the UMaine budget in which university leaders outline changes. Buy Photo

ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine will eliminate 61 positions and use $5.3 million of its savings to account for a $9.7 million shortfall in next year’s budget, university officials announced Friday.

The cost-reduction plan on the Orono campus calls for eliminating 30 faculty positions — all of which are vacant or will become vacant because of retirements and attrition — and cutting an additional 31 nonfaculty positions, at least five of which will involve layoffs.

The cuts are part of a systemwide cost-reduction initiative. University of Maine System Chancellor James Page told legislators earlier this month that the system’s financial position is dire and because of a $36 million revenue shortfall, up to 165 positions across seven campuses would have to be cut in the fiscal year that begins in July.

“I wouldn’t say we’re going through a crisis,” UMaine President Paul Ferguson said in an interview earlier this week as the plan for the Orono campus was being completed.

“We’re not in a retrenchment mode,” he added. “We’re not filling positions strategically.”

Ferguson said that no faculty positions or programs would be eliminated this academic year as a result of the budget gap.

The plan was unveiled to the campus community during meetings at 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Wells Conference Center.

The university is counting on an additional $10.7 million in revenue from an increase in enrollment next year to prevent further cuts, according to a handout distributed at Friday’s meetings. UMaine was the only campus of the University of Maine System’s seven to see an increased headcount between this spring and last spring, according to a recently released enrollment report.

Enrollment had gone down in years prior, though the freshmen class has increased steadily, suggesting that students were not staying year to year.

“This is the first year we increased retention by 5 percent,” Ferguson said. He attributed the growth to an “aggressive student advising component.”

Next year’s freshman class is expected to increase by 22 percent, but Ferguson said much of the increase in enrollment revenue comes as a result of an aggressive push to recruit out-of-state students who pay higher tuition than Maine residents. While the in-state tuition rate has gone up by $360 since 2010 and frozen for the last two years, the out-of-state rate has gone up by $2,190 during that time. Nonresidents will pay $26,250 next year.

Increasing the number of out-of-state students has been a crucial part of the Ferguson’s Blue Sky Plan, the president said.

“One of our first major priorities was revenue,” he said of the plan, now in its third year.

In the spring of 2010, out-of-state students made up 14.6 percent of the 10,979-member student body. Now they account for 19.8 percent of the population.

“If we had not been as successful bringing in new students, we would be in a world of pain,” Ferguson said.

The $5.3 million that the university plans to dip into to address the cuts will come close to decimating a savings fund that has been building over the last 10 years, Janet Waldron, vice president for administration and finance, said.

Waldron said the university has been saving the money in case of emergencies.

“The ability to have resources to react will be severely diminished, if not eliminated,” she said.

University officials also announced Friday that they will add 22 additional faculty members and 18 additional support staff. All but 10 of those positions will be paid for by dipping into the university’s savings, according to the handout.

The total net loss of full-time equivalent faculty positions as a result of the budget shortfall is 14.79, according to Waldron.

In January, UMaine’s portion of the $36 million budget gap was reported to the system’s board of trustees as $12 million. Ferguson said that as his staff honed in on their budget and learned of retirement plans, they found that a more precise number is $9.7 million.

Ferguson said the financial situation that UMaine is in is very different from that of the University of Maine System’s other campuses.

“The system is talked about as seven campuses. They are not equal,” he said.

The University of Southern Maine has been tasked with finding $14 million of the system’s $36 million shortfall in its budget for next year. Last week, 12 full-time faculty members were laid off, sparking a series of protests on the Portland campus. Those layoffs are in addition to another eight faculty members — and three entire departments — which are scheduled to be cut in July.

USM originally proposed cutting four departments, but since has found a way to save its recreation and leisure program.

USM students were planning another rally Friday afternoon at the Woodbury Amphitheater. At the same time, students from USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, which will be left with only one full-time faculty member after the cuts, were holding an event to honor their namesake’s 100th birthday where attendees will share stories that highlight the significance of the school.

In late February, University of Maine-Farmington President Kathryn Foster announced that 18 positions have been eliminated as part of a 9 percent campus spending reduction in fiscal year 2015. Fifteen of those positions already were vacant.

Last week, University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Handley announced the elimination of 24 full- and part-time positions, 10 of which were layoffs. In addition, 33 staff members will see their hours reduced.

 

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