Fairness key to U budget

With furloughs likely and tuition ready to soar, it’s vital to share sacrifices.

ItâÄôs no surprise that current University of Minnesota budgets are ominous documents. Last week, we learned that the University is considering a policy that would require all employees to take at least three unpaid days off during the next fiscal year. University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter says these furloughs will save about $12 million, while additional savings could come if the University mandates top-paid administrators to take six days off âÄî a proposal also on the table. Last spring, the University had to cope with a biennial $177 million cut, so 1,200 employees were laid off and tuition increased 7.5 percent. Students should engage themselves and brace for the worst after Gov. Tim Pawlenty recommended an additional $36 million cut to the University. President Bob Bruininks said it could result in hundreds of layoffs and an approximate 15 percent tuition increase. It canâÄôt be easy for him to say, but Bruininks is not kidding. At the Board of Regents meeting in October, a University financial futures taskforce determined that âÄútuition is the revenue stream with the highest potential for significant, long-term growth.âÄù If students and families want to avoid a repeat of 2002-2005, when tuition increased 56.8 percent, the time to get active is while budget cut strategies are being discussed. In the end, at an institution this diverse, with the interests of teachers, technocrats, students, police, office workers and doctors at stake, it is essential that no one group receive the brunt of the consequences of our humbling âÄúnew fiscal reality.âÄù Each element of our community must substantially share in the sacrifice. The legitimacy of University leaders and the long-term success of the University they steward depend on both sustainable and equitable budget decisions.