Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unprecedented, Massive Cuts Devastate University of New Orleans

While barely covered in the local media, the University of New Orleans is facing another round of brutal and devastating cuts, quickly transforming an already-under-resourced school into a shadow of its former self. Below is a letter from UNO President Peter Fos outlining some of the cuts. While this letter attempts to spin positives out of the situation, the basic facts are clear: public education at every level in Louisiana is under the most major attack in our state's history.

To: All Faculty, Staff and Students
From: Peter J. Fos, President
Date: August 14, 2012
Re: Budget Reduction Plan

I am announcing the University’s budget reduction and savings plan that will total approximately $12 million by the end of the current fiscal year. The cuts are due to a reduction in the University’s state appropriation of $9.3 million and increases in retirement costs, fringe benefits and other mandated expenses as well as an expected moderate decline in enrollment for the fall 2012 semester.

These represent the most significant budget cuts in the history of our institution. We undertook this process with great deliberation, intent on preserving the academic core of the University. We solicited feedback from both academic and non-academic  personnel. And we were still faced with some very difficult choices. I am disappointed that that we have been forced to eliminate instructor and staff positions, but we simply didn’t have any choice. We remain committed to maintaining academic quality and giving our students the best university experience possible.

The University’s total operating budget this year totals approximately $111 million. Although state approved tuition increases allowed under the LA Grad Act have increased self-generated revenue to $71 million of the school’s budget, these adjustments have not been sufficient enough to offset an overall decline in state support to the University.

The budget reduction plan includes incentivized faculty retirements (projected to be approximately 25), incentivized classified staff retirements (projected to be approximately 28), elimination of vacant faculty positions (30), terminal contracts to faculty (5), elimination of funding for graduate assistantships (26) and elimination of non-classified staff (16, including 5 in administration), resulting in a cumulative savings of $3.3 million.

Other savings will be achieved through several approaches including:

•             Mandatory annual leave for seven days for staff and administrators. This will allow the University to close buildings during Spring Break and Lundi Gras to save on utilities (expected savings of $100,000).
•             Outsourcing the University bookstore. This is expected to be completed by December 2012(pending approval of University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors). The immediate impact will be a cash savings of $500,000.
•             Anticipated lease of university property to third party (pending approval of University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors); expected to bring in $100,000 to $120,000 annually.
•             Reduction in adjunct faculty budget ($250,000)
•             Reduction in travel expenditures by 47% ($329,000)
•             One million dollar contribution from the UNO Foundation to the general scholarship fund

The remainder of the shortfall will be made up through a series of efficiencies and increases in self-generated revenue.

This process has been especially difficult because of the cumulative effects of the budget cuts over the past several years. Since January of 2009, our state appropriation has been cut approximately $28 million. But as you can see by the measures we are taking, we are not simply cutting our way out of this predicament. We have also identified areas where we can generate revenue to help offset the cuts.

I am grateful for the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff, and I am thankful for our talented and diverse students. UNO has a history of overcoming obstacles and, while this challenge may be unprecedented, we will certainly persevere once again.

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