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Faculty, staff prepare for budget cuts

February 5, 2009

Faculty and staff at UW-River Falls have been gathering to prepare for the coming budget cuts that have been brought on by the current economy. 

The amount of money to be cut from the budget at UWRF has not yet been disclosed and the University has been unable to determine what areas of its budget will be most severely impacted. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle is expected to announce the amount of money to be cut from higher education in the coming weeks.

Lisa Wheeler, interim vice chancellor of administration and finance at UWRF, said that the state of Wisconsin is currently dealing with a statewide revenue shortfall of $5.4 billion and the administration is waiting to hear how it will be allocated in the University system. Each campus in the UW System is assigned a percentage of the allocated cut. UWRF will be assigned 2.83 percent of the total UW System cut, Wheeler said.

“We know that there are budget cuts coming,” she said. “We don’t know the amount yet because there are so many variables.”

Wheeler said that the faculty and staff on campus have been meeting to discuss and brainstorm possible options to deal with the budget cuts and to make possible preparations. She also said that cuts will not be made in every department and area of UWRF.

“We know that we will not make across the board cuts because it’s not strategic, it’s not smart,” she said. “There will be some departments cut more than others, there will be some departments cut less than others and maybe there will be some that won’t experience anything.” 

The administration has known for a few months that the budget cuts were going to be made and the cabinet of the administration has worked to find ways to deal with the budget cuts, Wheeler said.

“We came up with a number of ideas and out of those we’ve formed five different project teams just to explore some specific options,” she said.

The Administrative Assembly at UWRF has also met to discuss and to think of ideas to contend with the upcoming budget cuts. The assembly is a group comprised of every department head and chair person on campus.

“We went through a similar exercise with them where we did some brainstorming around ‘Ok, we know we’re going to have a budget cut, what are some ways we can deal with it, are there better ways to fund something, do we have some sort of savings or reserve account in places that we could use, are there possible sources of revenue that we aren’t taking advantage of that we could?,’” Wheeler said.  “So we kind of tried to get people’s thinking going around those things.”

Glenn Potts, economics professor at UWRF, said that he has participated in the discussions regarding the program prioritization process on campus which is a long term process used to make decisions concerning the budget. He said that the budget cut is likely to have an impact in the current fiscal year, which concludes at the end of June, and larger impacts on the budget will be seen during the next biennium, which is a period of two years.

“The state of Wisconsin has over the last several years been gradually decreasing its contribution to the cost of education,” he said. “This is a particularly difficult situation for the state, so there is bound to be some implication on all of the budgets, and the University budget is a big part of the state budget.”