Shelton, Regents Address Budget Cuts
Proposed state budget cuts would have devastating effects on The University of Arizona, President Robert N. Shelton said Wednesday during a news conference in Phoenix, where he was joined by the presidents of the other two state universities and the president of the Arizona Board of Regents, Fred Boice.
At the UA, the cuts could mean hundreds of college and program consolidations and budget cuts for all campus units, Shelton said.
Shelton, Boice, Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Northern Arizona University President John Haeger spoke in front of the Arizona State House of Representatives to discuss their proposal to cut $100 million from the state university system to address the state's 2009 budget deficit, estimated at $1.6 billion.
While their proposal is lower than the $243 million cut previously proposed by the legislative leaders, it would still be a "devastating blow to the most powerful economic drivers the state has at its disposal," Shelton said.
With a $100 million cut, the UA would have to trim an estimated $40 million from its budget.
"And while I am prepared to offer a $40 million cut to The University of Arizona's budget, I cannot recommend it, because I do not believe it is the best course of action for the state," Shelton said.
Shelton said the cuts would result in the following consequences for the UA: a reduction in the number of UA colleges from 16 to 13 and the consolidation of up to 50 academic and administrative units; larger class sizes and fewer course offerings for students; and an across-the-board cut of 5 percent for each unit on campus, in addition to the 5 percent cut they endured at the beginning of the fiscal year.
The Board of Regents, in a special meeting Tuesday, declared a financial state of emergency for the three state universities and voted unanimously to authorize the university presidents to implement involuntary unpaid leave for employees (furloughs) if they so choose.
A memo sent to the University community by Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay Wednesday to address ongoing budget discussions said they hope to avoid furloughs.
As the budget deliberations continue, Shelton said he invites more constructive alternatives for balancing the state budget, noting that he has already begun to enlist expert assistance.
"I have asked UA law professor John Swain, a national expert on tax law, to lead the UA's efforts to assist the Legislature, and to enlist the talents of the Economic and Business Research Center at The University of Arizona's College of Management," Shelton said. "I have conveyed to both Professor Swain and to the Economic and Business Research Center that this effort is to be their highest priority, and that it will require their fullest effort and best thinking."
In the memo sent Wednesday, Shelton and Hay referred to faculty as the "heart of our University."
"Regardless of the outcome of the budget deliberations, we are committed to maintain a world-class faculty and to strategically invest in those core areas of greatness that will propel the UA into the coming decades," the memo read.
Allison Vallaincourt, vice president of human resources, encouraged UA employees to remain calm and not overreact during the ongoing budget struggle.
"It's normal to be feeling anxious right now, but we have to stay focused on the future," she said.