Bruininks’ budget calls for cuts

The president has released preliminary guidelines for the U’s 2011 budget.

by Taryn Wobbema

In preparation for another long season of planning the budget, University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks has released a preliminary framework to guide departments as the financial guessing game moves forward. In a Jan. 26 announcement, Bruininks asked academic and support units to work on slashing their budgets by an average 2.75 percent for fiscal year 2011. The actual amount could be âÄútweaked,âÄù University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter said. Some areas could be cut more and others less. Last year, the University cut departmental budgets by an average 5.5 percent. Pfutzenreuter said academic and support units will begin meeting with University administrators to work out this yearâÄôs recommendations before the president presents a budget to the Board of Regents in May or June. In the College of Liberal Arts, a committee charged with assessing the collegeâÄôs long-term financial options is also looking critically at how to handle the cuts for 2011. Gary Oehlert, CLA associate dean for planning, said the outlook has changed a lot in the past couple of months, which has changed the groupâÄôs timeline. Originally, colleges were told they would have to cut 2 percent, but .75 percent of that would come back as an investment. Now the cuts are a little deeper, and there is little talk of getting any of it back, Oehlert, co-chair of the committee, said. BruininksâÄô preliminary budget plan also includes a 2 percent pay increase for all employees, based on merit or bargaining contracts. Furloughs are on the table, but nothing has been decided. The UniversityâÄôs Office of Human Resources is currently assessing scenarios that would let the University save money through the mandatory days off, while making it fair for all employees, said Joe Kelly, human resources chief of staff. âÄúThereâÄôs quite a budget hole we have to fill somehow,âÄù Kelly said. âÄúAny and all options are on the table at this point.âÄù Finding the balance of the number of days and how employee groups would be treated equitably makes it a confusing issue. It isnâÄôt a convenient option for those who would be told to forfeit multiple days of pay, but it would save money. âÄúEvery 20 nickels makes a buck,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said. Kelly said the department of human resources is researching other institutions, such as the university systems of California and Wisconsin, which instated furloughs for this year. For both institutions, furloughs equated a multiple-percentage pay cut for all employees included. The looming question of how the LegislatureâÄôs actions this session will affect the University prevents any decisions from remaining permanent. BruininksâÄô plans incorporate a large cut, but its size canâÄôt be known until the state sets its budget.