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Release: Oct. 18, 2001

Coleman: budget proposal will cause problems, but UI will do its share

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman said the new budget-cutting proposal outlined last week by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack improves the situation for the university, but the fiscal problem remains serious. When combined with earlier budget cuts, the reduction to the UI's state appropriations for fiscal year 2002 would total more than $30 million.

"We recognize the gravity of the state's revenue shortfall and will do our share to help," Coleman said. "A 4.3-percent reduction is obviously less destructive than a 7-percent reduction, but this is still the most serious budget situation we have faced."

On Oct. 11, Vilsack announced an across-the-board state budget cut of 4.3 percent, designed to remove about $200 million from state spending during the current fiscal year, which began July 1. This proposal supersedes a plan put forth by the governor in late September to trim $108 million from the budget by targeted cuts. About two-thirds of the state budget was exempted from cuts under that earlier proposal. The University of Iowa would have needed to reduce spending in the current fiscal year by $21.9 million. The new plan calls for the UI to cut its current budget by $13.5 million.

"There is a very big difference in the consequences of reducing our budget by $21.9 million versus $13.5 million," said Douglas K. True, UI vice president for finance and university services. "While cutting $13.5 million will cause less pain, we are still talking about a very large number to reduce at a time when only two-thirds of the fiscal year remains."

True said the planning process already underway will remain the same as the UI prepares to deal with the cuts.

"We are well along in the process of consulting with deans and other administrators as well as with faculty, staff and student constituent groups," True said. "We've identified some options to cope with reductions but it's still too early to tell the exact impacts or strategies at this time."

The UI has already taken some actions to reduce the FY02 budget:

* As part of budget cutting actions taken earlier, the UI eliminated 107 positions, mostly by leaving vacant positions open. That included 70 faculty positions.

* A number of high-level administrative positions have been left vacant or are being filled with interim appointments, including the vice president for University Relations (David Skorton, vice president for research, is handling the duties of that position), the vice provost, the associate vice president for facilities services, the registrar, director of Affirmative Action, the dean of the Graduate College, the dean of Continuing Education, the associate vice president for Human Resources, and the director of the Museum of Natural History.

* Last week, UI officials announced the deferment of building renewal projects totaling $1.7 million and equipment purchases totaling $1.1 million. Building projects to be deferred include those at Spence Laboratories and at Trowbridge Hall. Equipment purchases that will be put off include both computers and instructional equipment replacement.

* This week, Coleman announced a one-year deferment of Phase II of the West Campus Hawkeye Athletic and Recreation Complex. Phase II includes the construction of an aquatics center, indoor and outdoor tennis facilities, recreation space, lockers, showers, and offices. Phase I of that project is well under way and will be completed within a year. That includes the Roy G. Karro Hall of Fame and Visitors Center Building, and a new women's intercollegiate soccer field.

* Two weeks ago, the UI announced the suspension of six internal grant competitions. That suspension will save the university about $1.1 million from the current fiscal year. Among the programs to be cut is CIFRE, the Central Investment Fund for Research Enhancement, which provides individual awards of up to $10,000 to support faculty and research scientists for work that will assist in developing new initiatives or enhance competitiveness for external funding.

Additional reductions would be achieved by actions such as the following:

* Further reductions of temporary and permanent staff positions.

* Suspension of some faculty developmental and support programs.

* Reductions in faculty, staff and student travel.

* Collegiate deans have developed preliminary budget cutting suggestions, such as leaving faculty positions vacant, reducing jobs through attrition, postponing job searches, increasing minimum class sizes and/or reducing the number of courses offered.

* The athletic department, in addition to postponing Phase II of the West Campus project, will leave four positions vacant, eliminate two more positions following upcoming retirements, and will make changes in the mode and frequency of travel.

* In addition to the 107 positions expected to be lost as a result of the earlier state appropriations reductions, the 4.3 percent across the board budget reduction is expected to reduce 158 additional positions, based upon the proportion of salary expense in the General Education Fund budget and the preliminary plans of unit heads.