Aug. 9-29, 2002
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U.Va. freezes state-funded jobs, braces for more budget cuts
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U.Va. freezes state-funded jobs, braces for more budget cuts

Staff report

Facing bleak financial news from the state and the prospect of additional budget cuts, the University’s administration has fine-tuned the guidelines of a hiring freeze announced July 25 and asked vice presidents and deans to prepare plans for the equivalent of a 7 percent reduction in their spending.

“We fully expect to be asked by the governor to make additional reductions to our operating budgets in this fiscal year and next, although at this time we do not know the magnitude of those reductions,” wrote Yoke San L. Reynolds, vice president for finance, and Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget, in a memo distributed Aug. 1. “We believe at this time that planning for a 7 percent reduction will adequately cover what we might be asked to do.”

The University anticipated receiving about $141.5 million from the state in the 2003 fiscal year, which began July 1. That accounts for about 17 percent of the academic division’s budget.

The freeze on state-funded hiring and discretionary spending came in response to a request on July 23 from Gov. Mark R. Warner for immediate action from state agency heads in light of a $237 million shortfall in revenue. Warner also asked his staff to reassess the revenue picture and said he plans to announce the revisions on Aug. 19.

“It is highly likely that any significant budget cut will affect jobs,” Reynolds and Sheehy said, noting that personnel expenses represent about 60 percent of the University’s operating budget. Vice presidents and deans were urged to “keep in mind” a variety of tools, ranging from attrition to layoffs, for addressing personnel expenses as part of their overall reduction plans.

As part of budget reduction plans, vice presidents and deans have been urged to consider a variety of tools for addressing personnel expenses, which represent about 60 percent of U.Va.’s operating budget. These tools are:

• abolishment of vacant positions/attrition

• leave without pay for agency convenience (with management approval, employees can volunteer to take leave without pay for up to four months)

• withdrawal of employment offers

• temporary workforce reduction: An agency head may require classified employees to take leave without pay for up to four months. Employee health insurance benefits would be continued.

• layoffs of classified employees as a last-resort budget reduction measure (see http://www.hrs. virginia.edu/Policies/emplrel/layoff.html)

• termination or reduction of the contractual cycle of general faculty

(see http://www.virginia.edu/provost/staffing.html)

• review of faculty re-appointments (see http://www.virginia.edu/provost/policies.html)

The University already has taken measures to deal with a reduction of $23.4 million in state funds for the 2003 fiscal year. Some teaching positions have remained unfilled or manned by temporary faculty, administration and academic budgets have been reduced, and in April the Board of Visitors increased tuition by about 9 percent.

The hiring freeze, announced by Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, does not apply to positions that are fully funded by non-state sources, such as through gifts or hospital revenue.

“The Medical Center won’t be subject to any cuts that the governor might deliver because they don’t get any tax support,” Sheehy said in an interview. But managers there are on alert to exercise care and caution in spending, and officials have taken cost-cutting steps, such as reassigning 170 jobs as part of an effort to save $28 million.

Determining the number of vacancies affected by the freeze is difficult because funding sources vary for many jobs. Variations from unit to unit also make it hard to define discretionary spending.

“The one thing that comes to mind is travel,” Sheehy said. “For some units, it could be totally discretionary. On the other hand, for a school like the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, if their adjunct faculty or full-time faculty have to drive to Southwest Virginia, Tidewater or Northern Virginia, that’s not really discretionary.

“We try to give the managers, deans and department heads the responsibility for making that judgment,” she said.

Sandridge and other administration officials say they are committed to protecting the quality of core instructional programs.

“We have to protect our core mission — which is educating students — and find ways to consolidate economies by perhaps combining activities where possible,” said Gene Block, vice president and provost. “We are in a new planning stage, awaiting Aug. 19 when Gov. Warner announces the new revenue forecast.”

Some schools, particularly the College of Arts & Sciences, are more at risk.

“The College tends to be more heavily dependent on either tuition or general fund support for its teaching mission, which is why a cut does hit them pretty hard,” Sheehy said. Other schools at U.Va. receive a higher proportion of funding from private gifts, research grants and other non-state sources.

The Curry School of Education has nearly $400,000 less in “spendable” state money now than it did a year ago, said Robert H. Pate Jr., associate dean for administrative services at Curry.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. For every faculty spot that goes unfilled, others have to pick up the load in teaching and advising students. “I think it’s going to show up in the very real sense of fatigue,” Pate said.

And then there’s the cumulative effect of years of state cutbacks. “It’s not just one year, but after two years or three years it starts to have a corrosive effect, like a ship going through the water picking up barnacles.

“The problem is that it will take a number of years of economic stability to get back to where we were, much less make progress.”

William H. Sherman, associate dean for academics in the School of Architecture, said education is suffering because the growth in private wealth in the 1990s was not accompanied by public responsibility in “the philosophy of tax cutting.”

“The only good that may come of this is that citizens may finally recognize that tax cuts have a price,” he said.


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