University faces $20 million shortfall

UVM may face a $20 million deficit in the near future, if a projection for the 2010 fiscal year holds true.”We have begun working on the 2010 budget, and our preliminary perspective on a potential budget shortfall commands our full attention,” Daniel Mark Fogel said in an e-mail to the UVM community on Monday. “We are facing much steeper budget challenge in the near term than anticipated even a few weeks ago,” he said.According to Fogel, budget shortcomings are a part of the process.”Often our first-run numbers show a deficit for the following year, and we spend the intervening weeks and months developing plans and strategies to present a balanced budget to the board,” he said. Despite this, he said that 2010’s deficit is “unprecedented.”Even before this latest projection, it was clear that something had to be done. Richard Cate, vice president for Finance and Administration, presented to the board the projection of a $12.8 million structural deficit going into 2010.”The budget wasn’t balanced going into 2010 – we balanced it with one-time money, so we knew we were going to have to balance it over the three-year period,” Cate said. “It’s just that the numbers are a little bigger than what we had known at that point – it’s been exacerbated by what’s going on in the financial market,” Cate said.Cate said that students should not expect an unscheduled rise in tuition, nor cuts in financial aid.”[The issue of financial aid] is about the law, but it’s certainly one of the fundamentals about how UVM operates, that the students are the primary concern,” said Cecelia Dry, director of Student Financial Services. “Because we’re the type of university that doesn’t get funding in any substantial amount other than tuition, we have to guard the source of tuition, which is the students, very carefully,” Dry said.David Shiman, director of United Academics (UVM’s faculty union), sees other ways that the deficit could affect UVM. One measure to deal with budgetary constrictions is to hire more part-time staff, as UVM is not obligated to provide full benefits, he said. Shiman said that having long-term staff is ultimately better for UVM. “The union is concerned about the quality of the institution, as I know the University is concerned about that.”As a result of the budget restrictions, it also appears that other staff members may face greater challenges ahead in their unions’ establishment of contracts with UVM.”I think there will be challenges for other unions who have to negotiate contracts next year … because the economic climate of the country will be quite different,” Shiman said.At this time, little has been said by the administration as to what steps will be taken to alleviate the budget deficit, but Richard Cate has said that “everything is on the table.””We’re certainly looking at … a wide variety of things, [but] we haven’t yet narrowed it down because we haven’t had a conversations with the deans – but we’re about to start all that,” Cate said.”There is no doubt whatsoever that the impact will be significant – but I also believe we will prevail through the hard work of this extraordinary community,” said Fogel.