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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Administration

University zeroes in on budget cuts


A draft published to the UH Budget Office Web site Friday listed the top nine priorities in budget cuts the University submitted to the Texas Legislative Budget Board on Monday. 

The recommendations are in response to a letter sent last month by Gov. Rick Perry asking for a 5-percent reduction in state appropriations for the 2010-11 biennium.

The draft shows fiscal year 2010 cuts would total more than $4 million, while the recommended total for FY 2011 would surpass $11 million.

The top five priorities deal mainly with the running of the University.

 The budget calls for communication allowances to be reduced by 95 percent and travel and business expenses by 10 percent, as well as an implementation of equipment and energy savings.

“The priority order reflects our desire to implement institutional cost savings first,” Executive Vice Chancellor Carl Carlucci said in an e-mail. “We are protecting our academic programs, and reductions in instructional faculty are not a part of our plan.”

These top five priorities combined will equal $6.03 million of the $15.29 million in cuts currently proposed in the draft. 

The remaining $9.26 million will come from the next four priorities, which will affect academics.

The draft calls for overtime and additional compensation to be reduced by up to 65 percent. Support for research assistants, which mainly came in the form of paid tuition, would be shifted from the University to external grants or indirect cost recovery from the federal government.

The draft states that “doing so would mean less (federal money) to devote to other elements of the research enterprise (e.g., lab renovations, equipment purchases), which would impede UH’s progress toward achievement of its tier one research goals.”

A reduction in staff positions is also proposed in the draft, through a combination of a hiring freeze, elimination of vacancies, retirements and layoffs. A mandated one-day furlough for all faculty and staff for FY 2010 is also proposed.

“Some of these plans would be painful,” Carlucci said. “But the UH community has offered many suggestions that we can implement to help avoid the worst of these.”

A Feb. 3 memo from Carlucci and Provost John Antel states that the total amount UH would need to cut would be $16.7 million over the next 18 months. The memo was sent to the deans of each college, as well as representatives of the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and Staff Council.

“Each college and each dean is being consulted and is part of the process,” Antel said in an e-mail. “All departments and colleges are unique. There is no ‘one size fits all’.”

Perry’s letter, sent in response to decreasing state revenues affected by the recession, discourages across-the-board cuts.

“Across-the-board cuts do not put us in a strategic position to move forward after the economic crisis,” Antel said.

In a Jan. 28 Houston Chronicle article, Faculty Senate President Mark Clarke also spoke on the effects of across-the-board cuts.

“The consequences of an across-the-board cut would be (to hurt) those programs we’re trying to develop, the student success and the tier one initiatives,” Clarke told the Chronicle.

Carlucci said all proposed cuts are dependent on the severity of final state reductions, but actions to save funds outside of state appropriations may be implemented as well.

“Savings from these actions could be used to backfill budget cuts made as a result of the reduced State appropriation,” Carlucci said. “Money we save now can be applied against any future reduction in the current year and so we can begin plans that require a long lead time.”

Antel said he promotes reallocating savings from programs that are not funded by the state.

“You are always reallocating resources to maximize your return,” Antel said. “(There is) no reason to stop during a crisis.”

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