President E. Joseph Savoie presents a strategy for covering $14.7M in cuts to UL's budget.

E. Joseph Savoie, President, University of LouisianaAugust 4, 2009 — Budget Action

Dear Faculty, Staff & Students,

I hope you’ve enjoyed the summer. It is apparent by the increased activity on campus that the start of the new academic year is right around the corner.

Today’s message focuses on the budget — a topic that has been in the news and on the minds of students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities throughout the state. After much wrangling during the recently completed Legislative Session, funding to UL Lafayette was reduced by nearly 7.8%. This is in addition to the 4.7% mid-year reduction that was implemented this past January. The total effect of these two reductions in one year constitutes the largest single year reduction in state support for the university since at least World War II. In addition to these reductions, the university is responsible for covering over $2.8 million in unfunded, yet state mandated, cost increases. A portion of these reductions will be offset by tuition/fee increases that will generate $3.2 million dollars.

For UL, the impact of these actions is as follows:

Mid-Year Cut                                         $4.3 million

New Fiscal Year Cut                              $7.5 million

Unfunded Mandated Cost Increases        $2.9 million

Total                                                 $14.7 million

Partial Offset from Tuition/Fee Increases  $3.2 million

Net Reduction                                    $11.5 million

We have two choices in dealing with this budget reality. One choice is to let this crisis become an excuse for mediocrity and wait for someone or something to rescue us. The other choice is to view this challenge as an opportunity for carefully conceived actions and innovative thinking that will maintain our current progress and allow us to continue efforts to meet goals established by our new institutional strategic plan. We must choose the second option.

In my February 2009 message in anticipation of further reductions, I announced the formation of nine Budget Task Forces charged with developing short-term and long-term cost savings and ideas for additional revenue generation. These Budget Task Forces, which were diverse and representative of the university’s community, were asked to use the newly adopted strategic plan to guide their work and to focus recommendations on efforts that support student success; strategically build graduate programs; improve research competitiveness; make us more efficient; allow us to continue to clean up, refurbish and modernize campus facilities; and strengthen our community.

The Budget Task Forces completed their work at the end of the spring semester. Their recommendations, and those submitted by other groups and individuals, provided several useful ideas that have been incorporated into our budget plan.

Universities across the state approached the budget crisis in different ways. You have probably heard about layoffs and furloughs being implemented by many institutions. At the direction of the UL System, we, too, have developed a furlough plan. I have chosen not to implement the plan nor impose any layoffs at this time because I believe that protecting our people during this time of renewed enthusiasm and momentum is critical. The mid-year cut ($4.3 million) has already been managed and is annualized in our current budget. The plan to deal with the new fiscal year cut is outlined below. Our goals were to protect our core academic mission, minimize the impact on our students, and protect our faculty and staff, who are our most important assets in providing quality academic services.

With these principles in mind, our budget plan is based on 3 primary elements: cuts to meet actual budget reductions; cost avoidance measures to reduce operational expenses; and increased revenue generation. Specifically, we will:

•freeze (or eliminate) vacant positions resulting in a $2 million savings;
•reduce the amount set aside for deferred maintenance projects by $2.1 million;
•reduce university sponsored research/economic development investments by $1.5 million;
•implement a 10% cut to each college’s and department’s operating budget (excluding personnel and contractually mandated expenses), which will be applied according to plans developed by the deans/department heads and approved by the Provost;
•reduce maximum classified staff merit increases from 4% to 2%; and
•defer across-the-board merit increases for faculty and unclassified, administrative staff.

Some of the cost avoidance measures that you will hear more about in the coming weeks include:

•consolidating or possibly eliminating programs with historically small participation;
• merging administrative and academic departments;
• decreasing the number of dropped classes each semester by implementing a plan that attaches consequences for dropping; (The culture of “over scheduling then dropping,” which seems to exist on our campus, results in excess faculty hiring and empty seats in classes.)
• centralizing and/or outsourcing various processes, functions and services;
• establishing savings targets and incentivizing students, faculty and staff to reach those targets;
• eliminating waste, particularly paper waste, by limiting the allotment on a semester-by-semester basis;
• negotiating bulk purchase and/or purchasing discount arrangements with local providers;
• examining building and lab usage patterns to ensure maximum use during peak times and eliminating use of certain facilities in non-peak times and summer;
• using software and personnel to power down computers, turn off lights, and reduce overall use of electricity;
• maximizing faculty teaching loads; and
• increasing class sizes where appropriate.

To generate additional revenue we will invest in efforts to:

• Grow enrollment (tuition revenue) by implementing aggressive and sophisticated recruitment efforts, placing greater emphasis on student success/advising, and targeting under enrolled populations (i.e., transfer students, adults, veterans);
• increase fund raising efforts;
• provide incentives for increasing research proceeds;
• partner with private enterprise to maximize the commercial potential of select university assets; and
• increase revenue from rental of facilities, public use of parking lots, etc.

Additional ideas and strategies will evolve as we move forward. For now, each of us needs to focus on what is vital and eliminate what is extraneous. If we stay true to our core values and are receptive to necessary change, I am confident that UL will emerge a stronger, better university. I am impressed by your ingenuity and encouraged by your willingness to be part of the solution.

Thank you,

E. Joseph Savoie

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