August 24, 2019
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University of Maine System will pursue a plan to give central office more control of budgets

BANGOR, Maine — A panel of University of Maine System trustees gave administrators the go-ahead to pursue a plan that would give central administration more control of the individual budgets of the seven campuses.

The plan, which is currently being created by Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Rebecca Wyke, is intended to give the Board of Trustees, the chancellor and her more insight into the finances of each campus and more influence on how funds are used.

For example, on Friday the trustees authorized the University of Maine to pull $5 million from its reserves to renovate two floors of Estabrooke Hall, Trustee Norman Fournier explained. The trustees currently do not know how much is in that reserve pool, he said, though it’s information that would be helpful.

In September, Wyke presented the board with a range of options they could pursue to change the financial structure of the system. On Friday the board chose to pursue the most aggressive of those options.

If the plan comes to fruition, financial officers on campuses who once reported to their presidents would now be reporting to a chief operating officer at the system level. The chief operating officer and the trustees would become involved much earlier in the budget-making process.

Also included in the plan is the proposal to move the university system offices from their current location in Bangor onto one of the campuses.

Wyke stressed that all details are still being worked out. The Board of Trustees will vote on whether to authorize the development of the plan at their meeting on Nov. 16 and 17, she said. They will vote whether to approve the plan at a later date.

Some at Friday’s meeting urged the trustees to use caution as they consider these changes.

“Before the board rushes to judgment, I would suggest that we take into account all of the concerns,” said Robert Rice, a UMaine professor of wood science and faculty representative to the board.

One of the concerns, brought up by UMaine President Susan Hunter, is that the universities’ accrediting association, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, must be involved in major changes like this one. Universities must be accredited in order to receive federal funds.

The system administrators assured her that they would be.

“The status quo is unacceptable in terms of any form of organization of this size and complexity,” said UMS Chancellor James Page. He was referring to the level of scrutiny the trustees and the central administration have over the campus budgets. “This is not an area that we can study to death and it is certainly not an area where I would find the status quo acceptable.”

 



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