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Hoppe outlines cuts, tackles tough questions at budget meeting

4/9/2003
April 9, 2003

The mood was solemn as faculty and staff gathered in the UC Ballroom for a presentation from Dr. Sherry Hoppe on the impact of state-mandated budget cuts for fiscal year 2003-04.

The purpose of the meeting, as noted in Hoppe's preliminary remarks, was to look at what cuts should be expected as well as what might be restored under various tuition-increase scenarios.

All state departments, including higher education, were asked to cut 9 percent from their proposed budgets. For Austin Peay, that total is $2.8 million.

The University must cut an additional $1.9 million to fund 2 percent across-the-board raises for employees given last year, to compensate for lost remedial studies revenue and to make up for an expected $700,000 revenue loss at the Center @ Fort Campbell, due to military personnel deployments. Higher insurance premiums and an increase in adjunct and overload costs also contributed to the $1.9 million total.

The budget included only one new expenditure. Administrators budgeted $37,000 for a retention coordinator. "Austin Peay hasn't done as well as our sister institutions in its persistence-to-graduation rates," Hoppe said. "This is not something of which to be proud. Because THEC is considering changing the funding formula to include retention, we thought it critical to insure the success of the students we admit."

Budget cuts were made on the basis of how critical a program was to the University's mission, whether the program or service could be provided in another way or by different personnel, whether service to students would be affected, if affirmative action or accreditation was affected and what legal liability might be incurred, Hoppe said.

In considering changes to faculty positions, the administrative team measured student credit hours against funding formula ratios, the percentage of credit hours taught by adjuncts and the special requirements of the discipline.

"If one department was 95 percent full-time faculty, that department didn't get the same consideration as the department that was 25 percent adjuncts," Hoppe explained.

In considering modifications to staff positions, administrators considered whether the staff served fewer students in summer than in the academic year and whether the service or function being performed by the staff could be transferred or assumed by another department. When a reduction in force was required, the team considered which employee had the most longevity at the University.

The $2.8 million cut mandated by the state required that 13 faculty positions and 12 unfilled staff positions be cut. Professional travel will be cut by $50,000—to $450 per person per year—and the Student Affairs budget will be cut by almost $90,000. Both the Centers of Excellence and athletics would be cut by $100,000 and $134,600, respectively.

Some secretarial and clerical staff will be asked to work a reduced number of hours. Staff can take only one course per semester under the PC109 plan. International and President's Research scholarships will be eliminated.

The state also mandated a $400,000 cut in maintenance and operational costs. Accomplishing that required cutting 10 unfilled positions, reducing the number of temporary workers and reducing travel. Hoppe said administrators also have considered contracting for custodial services for new buildings, though she hopes no maintenance staff would lose his or her job. "We hope those cuts will come through attrition," she said.

To cut an additional $1.9 million, administrators plan to reduce faculty reassigned time, reduce Fort Campbell scholarships, reduce funding for public service units such as the Community School of the Arts and reduce the number of temporary and student workers.

"We spend half a million dollars annually in student worker budgets," Hoppe said. "We're proposing to cut that in half."

Operating budgets will be reduced by 5 percent, professional development funds will be eliminated and nine clerical staff will be converted from 12-month contracts to nine-month contracts as part of the "reduction in force" section of the plan. Five open faculty positions will be frozen.

"We may release these positions when we find out what our tuition increase will be," Hoppe said. "Four of the five positions could be filled with a tuition increase."

Clerical positions in nursing, business and education will be eliminated, but personnel occupying the positions will be given the opportunity to transfer to Disability Services, Student Life and Leadership and the Office of the Registrar.

A Developmental Studies Program coordinator, the associate director of the CCA and 13 other administrative and clerical positions will be eliminated under the budget plan. "The 13 individuals haven't been told their position may be affected, because we're 95 percent certain we'll get at least a 5-percent increase," Hoppe said.

"We have fewer reduction-in-force cuts than most of our sister institutions. That doesn't make it any easier. These are the toughest decisions we've ever made. I get chills thinking about it. This is people's lives and careers. But you can't get to $4.7 million without discussing salaries."

Hoppe said a tuition increase would diminish the effect of many of the cuts, and she believes TBR and THEC will approve an increase. But that decision won't be known until late May or early June. "We have to make decisions based on the information we have now," she said.

With an 8-percent tuition increase, four or five faculty positions would be unfrozen, the 13 people whose jobs are threatened would remain and professional travel would be elevated from zero to $450. Five percent would be restored to departmental operating budgets, and $60,000 would be set aside for scholarships.

With an 11-percent tuition increase, learning and counseling center personnel would be restored to a full schedule, and 50 percent of the academic departments would be restored to a full-time schedule. In addition, some temporary and student workers would resume their positions, along with clerical workers in University Advancement and Human Resources. The University would set aside $60,000 for scholarships, and reserve $270,000 for an impoundment.

Hoppe encouraged those in attendance to support those whose jobs are affected by the cuts. "When you have to cut people doing a good job, it's a sad day," she said.

She also pointed out that the cuts outlined assumed stable enrollment. "Should we have an enrollment decline, we'll be making more cuts," she said.

To ensure enrollment remains at projected levels, Hoppe encouraged everyone to take a role in recruitment and retention. "Enrollment includes returning students. I urge everyone to participate fully in recruitment efforts. We're all in this together."

Hoppe spent more than an hour following the presentation answering questions, many of which came from African American students and addressed the closing of the African American Cultural Center during the summer.

She responded to a question suggesting the Center had been "singled out" for cuts by saying most enrichment programs operate in the academic year, not in summer, and administrators had tried to protect the center last year. "We understand its value," she said. "We could have said 'No center.' But we decided it was more important to keep it than do some other things. It was not singled out. We've tried to protect the center as best we can given that we had to make $4.7 million in cuts."

Glen Carter, professor and chair of the sociology department, said some felt that decisions had been made without adequate input from faculty, chairs and deans. Other faculty members said they were not being informed about decisions in an appropriate way.

"I learned about the decision to make the College of Business a School of Business through an e-mail, along with the rest of the campus," said Dr. Stephanie Newport, interim dean of the College of Business. "Why was I not told in person?"

Dr. Bruce Speck, vice president for academic affairs, responded to the questions, saying he had sought input. "I'm in constant contact with deans through the dean's council," he said. "We do have representative government."

Dr. Marlon Crow, associate director of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, noted, "When deans are appointed, that's not representative government," a comment that was met with a smattering of applause.

"The problem is when people say 'Give me the answer,' they want a certain answer," Speck said. "If you make a decision that's contrary to someone's input, they say you haven't sought their input."

Dr. Shirley Hagewood, associate professor, math department, expressed concern that the elimination of secretarial positions resulted in the loss of significant sources of information, and the impact on students was greater when secretaries were cut than when administrators were cut. "If you lose secretaries, you lose the voice of the University," she said. "Secretaries are the ones who have the answers to questions."

To the suggestion that administrators be cut instead of secretaries, Hoppe responded that many of the cuts made in the last two years were in administration. "We've made a lot of cuts. Maybe we could run with fewer administrators. I don't know. Look at Sheila McCoy. She's been without an assistant director for two years. We've survived, yes. But has she had to work many extra hours? Yes. It's isn't as simple as 'cut administrators, save secretaries.'"

"We're not perfect in our decisions," Hoppe said. "We just have to juggle the best we can. I didn't cut the budget. But I do have the responsibility for implementing it."