UW President Outlines Plan to Reduce Budget

5-26, 2016

The University of Wyoming would eliminate at least 70 vacant positions, standardize the teaching load for faculty members, offer an employee retirement incentive and take other measures to reduce ongoing spending by about $19 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, under a plan to be presented to the UW Board of Trustees. Internal, one-time reallocations totaling about $6 million also are proposed.

The plan also calls for, by the end of this summer, the university to identify ongoing savings of at least an additional $10 million for the following fiscal year that begins July 1, 2017. Those reductions would include program cuts and restructuring following a review process that has already begun.

President Laurie Nichols presented the broad outlines of the administration’s budget-cutting approach to UW employees and students during a town-hall meeting on campus today (Wednesday). The Board of Trustees is scheduled to consider the proposal during a special meeting June 15.

“We believe we have arrived at a plan that will make the necessary reductions in spending while allowing the university to move forward with a commitment to student success, quality programs and excellence in service to the state,” Nichols says. “These changes will not be easy, but I am confident that we will emerge from this experience as, in many respects, an even stronger institution.”

The reductions are a result of a drop in the university’s state block grant, driven by Wyoming’s economic downturn and loss of state government revenue. For the biennium that begins July 1, UW faces a loss of nearly $41 million in state funding. In addition, the university needs to reallocate dollars internally to cover costs related to a new financial and reporting system, increased utility expenses and other needs. For the biennium, that brings the total of necessary reductions to more than $50 million.

Already, units across campus have identified a total of $7 million in cuts for the coming fiscal year, based upon allocations they received from the administration when the Legislature mandated a 1.5 percent reduction during the 2016 session — and as a result of a need for internal reallocations. Subsequently, Gov. Matt Mead directed that $35 million be reduced from UW’s state appropriation for the 2017-18 biennium.

Under the plan presented today, UW would reduce spending by about $19 million in the upcoming fiscal year — cuts that would carry over to the second year of the biennium and likely beyond. The biggest piece of that reduction would be eliminating at least 70 vacant positions across the university. Additional savings would come from standardizing the teaching load for faculty members; severely limiting temporary faculty appointments; offering a retirement incentive to some longtime employees; and eliminating overtime and overload pay.

Also in the coming fiscal year, the university expects to identify about $6 million in one-time reallocations and savings to be used for immediate needs. That money would come from a number of reserve accounts across campus; unspent salary funding; and a voluntary program in which summer hours for certain full-time employees could be reduced to 32 hours (with pay for 32 hours). Other savings could be realized through standardized course enrollment; limits on employees’ out-of-state travel and conference attendance; and capping spending on student employment expenses.

“We don’t have enough time to be extremely strategic in reducing ongoing expenses for the fiscal year that starts July 1, but we believe this plan will get us where we need to be,” Nichols says. “It does appear we will be able to make this first round of reductions without employee layoffs, and that is certainly a positive.”

The reductions that will be necessary in the following fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2017, will be more difficult, Nichols says. Reducing spending by at least an additional $10 million annually likely will require elimination of some programs, based upon the program review process that is underway. The plan calls for that process to be completed by Aug. 31.

Other potential cost savings starting in the second year of the biennium could come from reorganizing academic and non-academic units; reducing, eliminating or combining non-essential services and programs; reviewing all administrative appointments; analyzing all positions and moving as many as possible to nine- or 10-month contracts; studying opportunities to reduce staffing levels or task frequency; and evaluating opportunities to outsource some UW operations.

At the same time, the plan calls for the pursuit of new revenues for the second year of the biennium and beyond. That could be done by developing a plan to fully utilize private endowment and gift dollars; developing a plan for program fees and differentiated tuition for high-cost programs; and increasing enrollment of nonresident students.

For the long term, the administration proposes, among other things, to develop a strong strategic plan to include higher fiscal performance; diversify revenue sources, with less reliance on increases in state support; develop a plan for tuition and fees, along with enrollment growth; implement a responsibility-centered management budget model; develop a merit salary policy and ongoing plan for salary increases; incentivize external funding and grow technology transfer; and launch a capital campaign to support the strategic plan.

“Budget reductions of this magnitude are never easy or popular. I completely understand the concerns across campus about the potential impacts of reductions,” Nichols says. “But, I also know that it is possible for an institution to go through significant reductions, yet retain strengths, and become more strategic and innovative in thinking. I am committed to making sure that is the case for UW.”