University of Wyoming administrators are continuing to find savings in the budget, working towards a $19.3 million permanent reduction by the end of fiscal year 2017.
UW President Laurie Nichols has stayed true to an original outline she created days after taking office in May. One of the largest cuts was the permanent elimination of 70 positions, both academic and non-academic.
“From those eliminations, the salaries plus fringe benefits came out to $5.2 million,” she said.
Even with the 70 eliminated positions, more vacancies are available for elimination if necessary, Nichols said.
One position being filled is the vice president for academic affairs, or provost. Incoming Provost Kate Miller will start her job Aug. 1 with a starting base salary of $300,000 after unanimous UW Board of Trustee approval. David Jones, the current vice president for academic affairs, has a $240,000 base salary. In comparison, Nichols’ base salary is $350,000.
“I would not have gotten her had I not offered that,” Nichols said. “We need a really good provost here. It’s really critical, especially at this time of budget cuts. I can tell you the second person we interviewed, I would have had to make the same offer. These are experienced people coming from other university that had been deans of their colleges for a long time, and their salaries are competitive where they’re at. You can’t just bring them in for the exact same salary they’re making. And for either one of the candidates, this was a modest uptick from what they’re making as deans.”
Plans to eliminate another $7 million began when the Penny Plan was adopted by the Legislature earlier this year.
Standardizing faculty workload to five courses a year for professorial faculty and seven for academic professional lecturers was expected to yield savings of $2.5 million.
“Right now, we’re about halfway there, so we might not reach that goal,” she said. “If so, my strategy is to eliminate more vacancies.”
Even with the standardized teaching load, the position eliminations left some gaps in various departments, leading to the cancellation of some elective courses, which are not directly necessary to graduate, Nichols said.
“I’ve asked, in that case, students that were registered for that course be individually assisted in finding another course,” she said. “I’m not going to say there won’t be any changes — there will be — but I think we can manage the changes so we can leave students on track for graduation. But there will be some consequences from this. We are going to be eliminating faculty.”
Moving some part-time employees to either full-time or part-time jobs below 50 percent standard work load is expected to save $1.5 million because of fringe benefit savings.
“It’s not that we’re eliminating the positions — were just eliminating the cost of their health insurance and fringe benefits,” Trustee Michelle Sullivan said.
Retirement and separation incentives are meant to eliminate $6 million from the budget by FY 2018.
“As of (Tuesday), 41 employees have committed to retirement incentive and 18 to the separation incentive,” he said.
Employees have until Aug. 5 to accept the incentive package. Miller explained some people, especially faculty members, could be waiting until the final days.
“Many are on nine-month appointments and are paid through the summer,” he said. “In some respects, since they’re not on duty unless they have summer salary or some other commitment, if they’re not on duty, it doesn’t matter if they pick it today or Aug. 5. We believe there is still more opportunity for people to accept this.”
While no current savings estimates are available, Miller said “we’re in the millions of dollars.”
Huron Consulting Group, originally hired to implement a new fiscal system, is now working with the Financial Crisis Advisory Committee to analyze non-academic areas of campus to find inefficiencies and cost-saving measures.
Nichols estimated an analysis to take 11 weeks and wants to delay a full report from the committee until after its completion.
The committee also voted to seek $15 million in savings from the FY 2018 budget instead of the $10 million in the original budget savings outline, Nichols said.
“We want to make sure we are finding ample reduction in the budget, so we don’t have to come back and do this again,” she said.