Faced with continued uncertainty over its funding from the state, the University of Connecticut Thursday approved a $30 million reduction in its budget for next year--the first cut in more than two decades.
School officials had initially proposed maintaining next year's budget at the current level of $1.04 billion, but decided on the cut shortly before the Board of Trustees approved the interim spending plan Thursday.
"We are being realistic," Richard D. Gray, the chief financial officer of UConn, said.
The budget approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy already cut general fund spending to UConn by $10.3 million, to $225.4 million, but that budget depended on approval of a concessions deal by unionized state employees.
With the concessions facing defeat in the voting being conducted this week, state officials will need to fill a $700 million gap in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Higher education funding is a possible target, and the interim spending plan approved by the UConn trustees will be revisited after the state's fiscal issues are resolved. The board plans to meet in August.
"We have some uncertainties in the level of support the state will be able to provide," Peter S. Drotch, chairman of the Financial Affairs Committee, told the board.
UConn's budget has increased year after year, nearly doubling in the last 10 years. The current year budget is 4.8 percent higher than the one that preceded it, and broke the $1 billion mark for the first time.
Gray said the $30 million will be realized in a $5.5 million cut to academics--about 1.5 percent of their budget -- and the remainder from across-the-board reductions from other areas. The board had decided in May not to fill vacant teaching and administrative positions.
The overall deficit the university had to close was almost $50 million. The 2.5 percent increase to tuition and fees--the smallest increase in years-- will close $8.8 million million of that gap. The university will save $11 million by delaying purchasing of new technology and other equipment. There is also a reduction of $7 million for the food courts and residential halls and about $6.6 million by not rehiring vacant non-academic positions.
"It was not easy," Gray told the board.
Peter J. Nicholls, the university provost, said the cuts were made "across the board."
"All the students are going to get their classes. They may be a little bigger and they may have an adjunct teaching them," he said.
The university's health center also received flat funding for the upcoming fiscal year that begins next Friday at $786 million.
Susan Herbst, the president of UConn for just 8 days, said there are major budget challenges ahead for the university.
"We have some tough decisions to make in August," she told the board. She noted new revenue sources will be necessary and the private firm hired to identify cost savings will be done with some of their work by then.
A breakdown of this interim budget was not immediately available.