Provost, Senior Vice President Take Questions on Budget

Posted: August 11, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm

By Robin Herron

At a forum held on Monday, Aug. 10, Provost Peter Stearns and Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens summarized the state budget situation as currently known and took questions from a large audience in the Johnson Center Cinema.

Stearns admitted, “We do not have definite budget news,” and added that he and Scherrens felt now was an opportune time to meet with employees and listen to suggestions and answer questions.

Scherrens gave “a quick context” on the budget situation by explaining that “what the conversation is about” concerns the Commonwealth of Virginia’s contribution to the university of about one-third of the total Education and General (E&G) funds, or $120 million.

The university has submitted to the commonwealth general budget reduction plans of five, 10 and 15 percent. The administrators said they had heard rumors that there may be an announcement from the governor in the Aug. 19-21 time frame as to how deep the cuts will be. If that were to happen, the university would schedule another budget forum around Aug. 24.

On the positive side, the administrators pointed out that fall enrollment numbers are on target and research funding and philanthropy have been increasing. Auxiliary enterprises, such as the Patriot Center, bookstores and fitness centers, have contributed a combined total of $1.5 million to the E&G budget.

Departments and central administration have already started working on scenarios for budget reductions. One promising area has been in contractual agreements with outside vendors, where negotiations may reduce costs. Travel is another area where cuts may be made. The university continues to look for alternative sources of income.

However, administrators stressed that most cuts are being determined by local units.

Acknowledging that it is “a painful process,” Scherrens said that at the 10- and 15-percent cut level, staff reductions would have to be made. The commonwealth has so far precluded furloughs or salary cuts, but trimming FTEs — having positions become less than full-time — rather than eliminating positions entirely is one way to reduce the payroll.

Scherrens noted that Human Resources and Payroll is preparing some FAQs related to reductions in staff.

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