Currently running on a temporary budget, University of Connecticut officials held a town hall meeting Thursday to inform the community about the current status of the budget as they prepare to address the issue during a Sept. 28 Board of Trustees meeting.
The university budget was contingent on the state labor agreement that passed last month leaving the university to contend with an additional $19.8 million worth of cuts on top of their running $49.5 million budget deficit, according to Chief Financial Officer Richard Gray.
The university has implemented alternatives to fill the gap in the $49.5 million budget gap including raising tuition by 2.5 percent and minor cuts, but they have yet to contend with the $19.8 million, according to Gray.
“There is another $19.8 million I have to find in the FY12 budget, either the revenue side or the expense side,” Gray said. “It is highly likely it will be on the expense side, in fact I can almost guarantee it.”
Further tuition and fee increases were not discussed during the town hall meeting, but Gray said they plan to hold another town hall meeting next month to address the issue further.
The Board of Trustees anticipated passing a budget during their June meeting, but budget uncertainty forced them to pass a temporary budget of $1.02 billion, which is $20 million less than last year’s budget.
The university had requested $254 million in state appropriations for fiscal year 2012, but was only granted $207.7 million, which is more than $25 million less than last year.
Gray did not go into specifics about where the extra money would be found, but presented several areas including purchasing, an area where the university may look for additional savings to fill the deficit along with advice from an outside agency.
The university hired McKinsey and Co. last year to find alternative sources of revenue and saving. Provost Peter Nicholls said the agency plans to have their final report prepared this month to present to the Board of Trustees.
“They have come in with a lot of recommendations. There is going to be a final report within the next few weeks,” Nicholls said. “There will be savings in FY12, there had better be, we paid this group a lot of money to come up with their ideas… they will definitely help with this $20 million problem.”
The university faced relatively flat state funding numbers for the past several years, which has forced upper management to look for new sources of revenue and savings, according to Gray.
Over the last four fiscal years the level of state funding has remained around $230 million, while the requests from the university have reached more than $270 million in fiscal year 2011, according to numbers provided by Gray.
Both Gray and Nicholls pointed to areas of concern that have generated the stagnant state funding levels including an increase in the student to faculty ratio, which is currently 18 to 1, according to Gray.
Over past 15 years Gray said enrollment has gone up by 49 percent and faculty has only increased by 13.6 percent.
Nicholls added that the percentage of tenure and tenure track faculty is declining. He said not only is the student to faculty ratio increasing, but the faculty includes more in-residence and adjunct professors.
“If we can get these budgets balanced wouldn’t it be nice if future tuition increases could be used to increase the number of faculty at the institution rather than buy ourselves out of debt,” Nicholls said.
Both Nicholls and Gray plan to hold more town hall meetings in the future.