By Kat Riddler, Editor-in-Chief
One of the biggest challenges that a university or business can face is overcoming a budget deficit. The University of Missouri—St. Louis has to face that challenge hopefully by May 1 to balance the budget before the new fiscal year starting July 1.
After an exhaustive several month-long process, the final details of the proposed budget cuts were presented at an open meeting by the University Assembly Budget and Planning Committee on April 6 at 2 p.m. in the J.C. Penney Summit Lounge. The auditorium was filled to capacity with over 200 in the audience.
Everyone in attendance received the news that the budget cuts would result in 85 full- and part-time positions being cut over the next two years. Positions that are currently unfilled because of the hiring freeze will count, however, towards the total 85-person reduction in force.
Chancellor Thomas George presented the plan showing 62 percent of the cuts will come from layoffs, 9 percent from retirement, and the rest would be from not filling the positions open currently.
These cuts will cover about $12 million of the deficit. One of the reasons that there are so many cuts to personnel in these situations is because the cost of salaries and benefits for employees is usually the largest percentage of an annual operating budget.
Chancellor George said, “Compensation itself—salaries, benefits, and so forth— is more like 70 to 75 percent [of the total budget] so the actual reduction of compensation is less than the percentage they occupy of the budget.”
No undergraduate degrees or scholarships will be cut in the proposal, to keep student retention high. UMSL is anticipating a three percent decline in student population for the next two years. The remaining $3.5 million of the $15 million deficit will be from generated revenue. Some may be from tuition increases for graduate students in and out-of-state and undergraduates out-of-state.
All colleges and units were asked to give plans for proposed budget reductions of five percent, 10 percent, and 15 percent. The current plan amounts to a total of an eight percent reduction. All deans and unit heads met with the Chancellor and discussed and compromised on the final proposed reductions presented. Chancellor George pointed out that the schools and colleges on campus represent 54 percent of the budget, but they are only going to be 46 percent of the total reductions.
After a motion by a member of the committee that the cuts be approved immediately, some members voiced opposition to a hasty vote based on the fact that their committee had only received it about 16 hours prior. Student Government Association President Cameron Roark, senior, criminology and criminal justice, said, “If people are comfortable with rubberstamping something without really knowing what’s in it, then go ahead. But to me, I think budget and planning plays a
bigger role than just saying ‘Okay we agree. Let’s move on.’ I believe we are up here to investigate what’s in here.”
Nick Palisch, program director of student services in optometry, was against voting that day. He said, “They just received [the budget proposal]. It is still changing. I really think that I don’t support the motion to move forward with this until we get some feedback from the staff, from the students, and even the faculty who are just now seeing it for the first time.”
The motion carried to postpone the vote until April 11 at 9 a.m. in the Century Rooms of the Millennium Student Center. There will be a live webcast available online for those unable to be there in person.
Some of the bigger cuts will be coming from the Centers which will see a 70 percent decrease. That will include a cut of $630,000 total for the Women in Public Life, Public Policy Research Center, and Ethics in Public Life.
SGA Comptroller Michael Clark, junior, accounting, asked, “For the Women in Public Life Center, what was the rational cutting that by 50 percent when statistically women have much harder times moving up? When you look at this committee there is only one woman standing here.”
The answer given was that it was cut and not eliminated. Audience members were not allowed input during the meeting, but they did make their feelings known at various times during the meeting with clapping and cheering.
To view a breakdown of all of the reductions, visit http://umsl.edu/budget/.