U departments begin working on preliminary budgets, tuition may rise by 7 percent

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The University of Minnesota is bracing itself for the cuts in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed budget. The University’s funding will be reduced by $151 million dollars over the next biennium, a reduction of about 11 percent, according to a statement by University President Bob Bruininks.

But the roughly $75 million the governor is proposing to cut next year is only part of the problem, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said .

With other essential expenses like the utility bill, debt, leases, technology licensing fees and the cost of fringe benefits, the University needs to make up about $133 million from next year’s budget, Pfutzenreuter said.

“The budget problem the University faces is always larger than any money the state gives us, but this year the state cut us $75 million,” he said.

In the preliminary parameters, about one-third of the $133 million will be covered by a 7.5 percent increase in tuition for all students, while the rest will come from budget cuts, Pfutzenreuter said.

The parameters include $12.4 million in scholarship money to reduce the impact of the tuition increase on low and middle income students. Of that money, $8 million will start a new scholarship program for Minnesota residents whose household incomes are between $40,000 and $100,000 Pfutzenreuter said.

The remaining $4.4 million will ensure that low-income students on Founders’ Scholarships will see no increases, he said.

As Bruininks announced Friday to the Board of Regents, University departments have been asked to work on preliminary budget planning parameters based on 5 percent to 8 percent reductions. It will be the individual departments’ responsibilities to make these cuts.

Department financial officers did not return calls or comment on what specific programs might be cut as of press time. In an e-mail obtained by The Minnesota Daily, University spokesman Dan Wolter encouraged faculty to consult with the University News Service before commenting on potential cuts.

“Should you have something you’d like to share with [The Minnesota Daily] at this point, I’d urge you to consult with me or your News Service representative before responding,” Wolter said in the e-mail. “Also, if you need someone to tell them you’re declining comment, we’re happy to do that.”

The parameters could, and probably will, change as the legislative session progresses, Pfutzenreuter said, but departments needed to start getting their heads around the budget cuts.

The current projections assume a salary freeze for next year, Pfutzenreuter said, but actual numbers will have to wait until collective bargaining with unionized workers is complete.

Some major changes have already been announced in recent days, such as the reorganization of the Graduate School, and the combination of the dean of the Medical School and the vice president for health sciences.

Other areas for savings identified by Bruininks during Friday’s regents’ meeting include energy use, space management and printing.

Raymond Voelker, the University’s director of Space Management , said most of the University’s savings from better space management would come from savings in utility costs. These savings would come from consolidating colleges into shared spaces and tearing down or mothballing out-of-date buildings.

Voelker said it was too early to name buildings that would get the wrecking ball.

Meetings to discuss health care changes will begin this week, said Dann Chapman, the University’s director of Human Resources. Ideas from the administration will be discussed with the Benefits Advisory Committee before anything is made public, he said.

Another way departments could reduce costs is through reductions in printing publications, Wolter said. A lot of departments have glossy, magazine-style publications.

The publications keep alumni informed and help solicit donations, but they’re expensive to produce, and departments could potentially save a lot of money by publishing them less frequently or electronically.

For example, University News Service discontinued a tabloid newspaper for alumni called “M,” Wolter said. That saves $325,000 a year, just in production costs.

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