University of Minnesota Duluth chancellor takes questions on cutsChancellor tells faculty, staff and students that university system will help solve $9.4 million shortfall.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
UMD Chancellor Lendley Black on Monday told about 400 students, staff and faculty gathered for a budget town hall meeting that increased funding from the University of Minnesota system will have to be part of any budget solution at the Duluth campus.
Black gave a brief presentation and then fielded questions for more than an hour on how UMD will cope with the $9.4 million annual budget shortfall that was first detailed last week.
UMD will do its part by cutting support staff where possible, Black said, especially using voluntary layoffs, as well as reorganizing faculty and staff.
Students may be asked to ante up more as well, with an idea floated
for a $10-per-month fee for what is now a free pass for the Duluth
Transit Authority bus system.
UMD also can help close the budget gap by increasing summer activities on campus, school officials noted, such as camps and summer athletic and music programs.
No final decisions have been made on additional cuts or revenue hikes. Black and other UMD officials said they are seeking suggestions to close the $9.4 million gap before a March 7 budget session on campus. That session will be followed by a March 14 date in the Twin Cities when the northern campus will plead its case to the University system’s officials and regents.
Black made it clear Monday, however, that the university system will need to help solve the budget gap. Some UMD faculty members, as well as some northern lawmakers, have been critical of the university system for not keeping UMD funding on pace with the Twin Cities or other campuses.
“I think there are some likelihoods we’ll see some added assistance from them,” Black said at the town hall meeting.
Black said he had a good meeting with U of M President Eric Kaler last week, and that Kaler seems “committed to helping us.”
The shortfall amounts to about 6 percent of UMD’s $153.7 million budget for the current fiscal year.
The school already has been seeking faculty and staff who may take incentives for a voluntary layoff. So far, 50 support staff and 12 faculty have accepted the deal. While some of those positions will be replaced, others won’t, creating a cost savings to help reduce the deficit. And those positions that are filled will be with less experienced, less expensive replacements.
The savings will make up part of a $2.5 million chunk of the shortfall. Other spending cuts also may include the Office of Civic Engagement as a stand-alone entity, with its mission instead spread across campus.
Kathy Abrahamson, acting president and steward for AFSCME Local 3801, which represents about 280 UMD clerical and technical support staff, said past workforce reductions already have staff stretched thin. That makes it harder for student and faculty to get what they need, she noted.
“We’re the ones that are down in the trenches. We are the ones that get the students into the system and into the faculty’s classroom,” she said.
One student who spoke Monday praised Black’s administration for its open handling of the budget problem and for prioritizing academic courses that help students get relevant majors. But others asked for more information before decisions are made.
“How are we going to be kept in the loop?” asked Kim Hyatt, a UMD senior, saying she only learned of the town hall meeting from a faculty member. No word of the meeting was released to students by administration, she said.
A major part of the UMD budget shortfall is that the school, more dependent than ever on tuition for base funding, saw a dip in enrollment from 2011 levels. In 1998, 40 percent of UMD’s revenue came from tuition; in 2013, revenue from tuition was 77 percent. When enrollment increased at UMD, the University of Minnesota decreased UMD’s portion of state funding. As enrollment dropped, the University did not increase funding to match.
But new student enrollment was up 9 percent for this academic year, and Black said he expects a higher number next year as well.
“That will help us out,” he said.
Black said he had no “drop dead” date to finalize the cuts, and that UMD may not reach the entire $9.4 million goal in one year.