Transformation Won't Solve Budget Problem, Provost Says

Transformation Won't Solve Budget Problem, Provost Says

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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Provost Meredith Hay urged the Faculty Senate on Monday not to get hung up on the idea of saving enough money to cover The University of Arizona's immediate budget concerns through the Transformation Plan.

While cost cutting is an important component of the transformation process in light of current economic conditions, it will be impossible to cover the cost of an anticipated midyear cut through the Transformation Plan alone, Hay said.

University officials are preparing for a midyear budget cut of 5 percent, or about $20 million, although that number is speculative. The UA's budget was already cut by $20 million in the beginning of the fiscal year.

While Faculty Chair Wanda Howell noted at Monday's Faculty Senate meeting that the Transformation Plan and budget concerns have become "intimately connected," Hay said the focus of the transformation should continue to be on how to improve programs at the UA so that the campus can meet its goals of improving rankings, increasing enrollment and becoming one of the nation's top-10 public research institutions.

"The state of Arizona is going to come out of this recession. The point of the Transformation Plan and the reorganization is not just to save money. Maybe we'll save money; it won't save $40 million," Hay said. "It's to make sure that we are as strong as we can possibly be coming out of this, so we know exactly where we're going to invest the money when it starts to come back."

Hay said the University hopes to come up with enough money centrally to cover the anticipated budget cut up-front, while permanent cost-cutting measures will take more time.

Hay said as a first step, all deans and department heads must evaluate how they are spending their money and time and look at what programs are successful and must be maintained and which ones are dragging departments down and should be eliminated.

Miranda Joseph, chair of the UA's Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, said after reading the white paper proposals submitted by academic units on campus, she believes more significant savings could come from curricular streamlining over a longer period of time than that allotted to create the initial proposals.

Of the approximately 75 academic white paper proposals submitted, SPBAC has recommended 20 recieve further consideration. Non-academic proposals were due to the Provost's Office on Monday, and Hay said they will be posted on the provost's Web site by the end of the week. The academic proposals are already posted online. The Transformation Plan calls for full proposals to be reviewed by the provost and submitted to the Faculty Senate by Dec. 15.

As the discussion at Monday's meeting turned toward financial savings, senators asked about the possibility of more drastic cost-cutting measures, such as permanent salary cuts, salary giveback programs or larger employee workloads for no additional pay. Hay said nothing is off the table.

As the University's financial future remains unclear, state government is also facing change after Gov. Janet Napolitano was named President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of Homeland Security on Monday.

Arizona's Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer is in line to become the state's next governor. UA President Robert N. Shelton told the Faculty Senate he will meet with Brewer today for the first time in an hourlong meeting that was scheduled prior to the announcement of Napolitano's appointment.

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