Facilities and services cuts still in early stages - Montana Kaimin: News

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Staff cuts Facilities and services cuts still in early stages

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2013 12:25 am | Updated: 12:38 am, Fri Mar 29, 2013.

Imagine a university without maintenance workers, advisers, cashiers or Campus Safety. It’s easy to take these much-needed services for granted as a student, but without these positions the University of Montana couldn’t run. And while these services and staff will likely also feel the squeeze of lower enrollment’s effect, it may not be as far-reaching.

“My options are different. I have a little more flexibility,” said Michael Reid, the new vice president of administration and finance. “I don’t have 30 students in a classroom or a faculty member to instruct them: I have support services.”

While Reid doesn’t foresee or plan on layoffs, cuts will likely delay hiring new staff and add to the backlog of delayed maintenance.

“For example, we may not be able to paint walls in some of the classrooms,” he said. “We may not do preventative maintenance … It’s a short-term solution, and it’s not ideal.”

The Office of Administration and Finance oversees the Adams Center and Griz Tix; Business Services; Facilities Services; Human Resources; The Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis and Public Safety.

Although academic departments are planning for more potential cuts as a total sum of money, a higher percentage of cuts are projected in staff and services.

“Pretty much we’re saying, ‘let’s not hire a bunch of people and start new programs right now,’” Reid said.

Though students interact more with faculty, it’s impossible to leave the University without interacting with the staff and services that make the University run. Faculty members are adjunct, tenure-track or tenured professors, while staff and administrators comprise the rest of University employees.

“The priority is to minimize impact on students,” Reid said. This has been the overall theme of planning budget cuts in every sector, and services like many of those found in Lommasson, the Physical Plant and Curry are no different.

Curry Health Center is 85 percent supported by student fees, so when enrollment dropped the effect was immediate. There were 505 fewer students paying the $211 fee this spring semester compared to spring 2012 — a $106,555 difference.

The idea to suspend 24-hour care may become a reality, Interim Director Rick Curtis wrote in an e-mail. The potential plan is to have the clinic open 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Since only .005 percent of visits came between midnight and 8 a.m. in the last two years but account for 6 percent of the clinic’s budget, he wrote, night nurses may shift to the daytime “where their skills can be better utilized to serve more students.”

Curtis added that while there may be the need to raise fees for some services, he made it clear that “due to retirements and current vacancies, I do not anticipate any staff reductions at Curry Health Center.”

Services that raise their own funds, such as residence halls and Dining Services, are not subject to the cuts planned for the general fund. Still, with fewer students to serve, there will be fewer meals prepared and possibly fewer cooks needed to prepare them.

“They’ll have to look at demand and deal with it accordingly,” Reid said.

While projected numbers have been released for academic cuts, Reid said his Office of Administration and Finance has more time to plan and wait for enrollment numbers next fall.

“If someone comes in and says they’re retiring, we can restructure,” Reid said. “But you can’t have a chemistry professor replace an English professor.”

By hitting the brakes on hiring and implementing new programs, the new vice president said the potential cuts should “not directly impact an employee.”

brooks.johnson@umontana.edu

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