BANGOR, Maine — For the first time in three years, the University of Maine System plans to ask the state for an increase in the amount of funding the seven-campus network receives from taxpayers.
Pending approval from the Board of Trustees, the system will ask for $182.2 million for fiscal year 2016 and $189.1 million for fiscal year 2017, increases of 3.4 and 3.8 percent respectively over the $176.2 million the system receives.
The board will vote whether to approve this request at its meeting in Fort Kent on Sept. 22.
If approved, the system will be able to maintain a tuition freeze that’s been in place since the 2012-13 school year for two more years, according to UMS Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Rebecca Wyke.
In 2012, system administrators and the trustees agreed to freeze tuition, which had been steadily increasing each year for decades, if the state would not reduce the appropriation.
For the past two years, the state appropriation to the university system has remained steady at $176.2 million. The appropriation funds about one-third of the cost of running the institution, while tuition revenue covers almost all the rest.
Wyke said the university system has been looking for ways to reduce spending, as was promised in 2012. The system is at varying stages of implementing plans to centralize certain functions once performed on each campus.
Among the functions that have moved under the umbrella of the system are information technology, which Wyke said saves $3 million each year, and procurement, which she said saves $2 million. Procurement is the purchasing of goods and services for the universities.
Human resources has begun the process of centralizing, which Wyke expects will result in $1.6 million of reduced spending.
Academic programs, facilities and the finance departments are at very early stages of implementing such plans.
Wyke said these efforts have been a “good start,” but the cost of running the institution has continued to rise with inflation.
If the appropriation increase is approved, the system will still continue its efforts to cut $69 million by fiscal year 2019. If the increase is not approved, those cuts will be greater, and the trustees would “have to revisit the question around tution,” Wyke said.
She also said that so far, efforts to cut costs have not been moving fast enough to tackle the budgetary challenges the university system is facing.
“We are sized larger than we need to be across the board,” Wyke said. “Not in every program, but some programs and certainly administration.”
If the average tuition is frozen for a fourth year in a row, it will be the longest the university system has gone without increasing tuition since it was created in 1969.