College deans will decide on proposed $1 million cuts this week

Provost John Wright addresses the College of Management and Human Service Monday with Dean Joseph McDonnell and President Botman in the background.
Paul Koenig
Provost John Wright addresses the College of Management and Human Service Monday with Dean Joseph McDonnell and President Botman in the background.

Posted on February 28, 2012 in News
By Paul Koenig

The additional $1 million in cuts needed from each college at the University of Southern Maine could result in fewer faculty and staff and squeezed operating budgets, but the college deans hope to minimize the impact felt by students.

The three deans of the major colleges will discuss their proposed $1 million-a-piece budget cuts for next year with Provost John Wright tomorrow, before Wright submits the proposals to President Selma Botman by Friday.

Lynn Kuzma, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said she won’t know how the cuts will affect students until the exact nature of the cuts is known. “I think once more decisions are made, we should address that concern — as an administration we need to.”

It’s a difficult situion because each of the colleges have about $16 million budgets and roughly $15 million of that is in personnel.

“Operating budget is very small, so it doesn’t give you much wiggle room,” she said over the phone Tuesday. Kuzma said it remains to be seen if they have to make personnel cuts, “but it’s not off the table.”

Andrew Anderson, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Health, said the first areas they’ve looked at are cutting unfilled positions and reducing the operating budget, which is only around $1 million for the college. The unfilled positions could be from people who have left or from recently created positions that haven’t been filled yet.

“Going forward, non-tenured faculty lines would be the other area we’ll look at,” Anderson said in his office Tuesday afternoon.

Anderson said they’re looking at the most significant needs of the colleges and protecting those programs. A determinant to whether they’ll cut a faculty line or position is how difficult it would be to find a part-time faculty to fill the role, as well as enrollment patterns. Anderson’s college examined the number of students in different programs and whether departments had surpluses in their budgets last year when looking for where to cut.

Joseph McDonnell, dean of the College of Management and Human Service, wrote in an email, “I think the comments from the other deans captured the challenge we are facing.  We are going to make cuts in a way that will not diminish the academic programs.”

The deans were informed of the $1 million decree a little over two weeks ago, and they’ve been meeting with department heads and other members of their colleges find the money. The university has a projected budget shortfull of $5.1 for fiscal year 2013, as a result of slipping enrollment, smaller state appropriations and a tuition freeze put on the University of Maine System by the Board of Trustees.

“We can’t create a budget on hope. We need to create a budget based on some sort of historical reality,” Botman said in an address to the College of Management and Human Service on Monday.

Botman and Wright spoke with each of the colleges this week and the week before winter break about the shortfall and tried to address concerns. The university will likely face a budget shortfall in FY ’14 as well.

“We have to look at the fact that we’re always going to be in a situation where money is going to be a concern, at least in the foreseeable future,” said Anderson.

This story was updated Wednesday afternoon with McDonnell’s response by email.

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