Actual and proposed cost-cutting measures in the wake of funding reductions for the University of Tennessee were reviewed at the Wednesday meeting of the UT Board of Trustees’ Effectiveness and Efficiency for the Future Committee.
Hiring restrictions, decreased energy consumption and reduced operating expenditures have already taken place, and a review of programs for possible consolidation or elimination and a statewide review of all vacant positions for possible elimination are under way now as the University makes necessary budget cuts.
“The governor has made very direct and clear statements — the state’s payments are going to be reduced July 1 and probably in the 10 to 15 percent range for higher education,” UT President John Petersen told committee members. “When July 1 rolls around, and there’s a $150 million cliff for higher education, of which $48 million to $72 million will be our part … we can’t throw up our hands and say ‘we can’t do that.'”
University officials expect to get a firm budget cut figure from the State of Tennessee in mid-December, and plans call for presenting a proposed UT budget to the governor in January, Petersen said. Multiple budget-reduction scenarios are being drawn up at all UT campuses with an emphasis on strategic cuts that protect the University’s core mission — education, research and outreach, Petersen added.
“Targeted, specific cuts rather than across-the-board reductions are key to the University positioning itself to grow and to continue to be a leader in higher education once we are able to emerge from the other side of the economic downturn,” Petersen said.
Committee members heard a lengthy list of specific cost-cutting actions already taken or planned -– many identified through suggestions from UT faculty and staff.
Among these measures:
The UT System has cut more than $2 million by eliminating vacant positions since July 1 and will begin using electronic paystubs for employees to save $146,000 a year.
Knoxville campus officials are implementing efforts to reduce coal, electric and natural gas consumption by 10 percent to save $2 million and will use electronic student billing statements to save $88,000.
UT-Chattanooga has eliminated tenure-track faculty lines to save $200,000, has cut operating costs by more than $500,000 and cut vacant positions.
Cost-savings plans at UT-Martin propose to save the campus nearly $1 million by cutting utility costs, eliminating vacant positions and consolidating offices and operations.
Committee members also heard proposals for potential alternative tuition models and for potential reduction in workforce measures.
The Effectiveness and Efficiency for the Future Committee (EEF) was formed in September 2008 to help identify savings initiatives. More than 500 cost-savings ideas have been gathered from UT campuses and institutes statewide, and a UT task force working with the EEF Committee members is compiling and reviewing those suggestions.