MU budgets reallocated for strategic plan

The MU Strategic Operating Plan could be essential for MU to maintain its membership in the Association of American Universities.
Ben Kothe / Graphic Designer

Various departments across campus will work with reduced funding and mandated self-funded salary and benefit increases over the next four years.

Every area of campus, except the scholarship and campus safety budgets, received 2 percent less in general operating funds — money raised from tuition revenue and state funding — on July 1, when fiscal year 2015 rolled in.

These cuts are independent of the $3.8 million reallocation announced by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin on July 3.

Departments will also be required to increase their own salaries and benefits with no additional general operating funds to match the increased expense.

Inside departments

For the Department of Student Life, which oversees nearly 1,500 student events and programs each year, these new policies will result in the loss of over $250,000 over four years, Director of Student Life Mark Lucas said.

Lucas said the department, which employs roughly 52 full-time staff and 43 graduate assistants, has never seen a multi-year budget cut of this magnitude during his tenure, and that the reduced funds could challenge the department’s ability to “enhance the student experience.”

“We will have a great deal less money to provide programs and services to students … and you can’t make up a quarter of a million dollars by reducing photocopies or having eight pizzas instead of ten pizzas at a student event,” Lucas said. “So it’s bigger things that we will have to eliminate … It’s my job to ensure that the impact is as minimal as possible, but you cannot lose that much money and not have some effect on what we have been providing for students.”

Lucas also said since 75 to 80 percent of the department’s GO and student fee budgets are tied up in areas such as staffing, the department would review both programming and staffing to determine where to make reductions.

However, Student Life’s reduced budget will not affect the student organizations within the department, such as the Missouri Students Association and the Department of Student Activities, whose budgets are mostly made up of student fees.

The department is a part of the Division of Student Affairs, which distributes its general operating funds to five of nine departments: Student Life, the Disability Center, Counseling Center, Missouri Student Unions and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, which includes the Office of Parent Relations.

According to the division’s Director of Fiscal Operations Alysha O’Neil, the general operation cuts for FY2015 will be evenly distributed between the five general operation-supported departments while the division plans for FY2016.

Other Student Affairs departments — Residential Life, the MU Student Recreation Complex, Campus Dining Services and the Mizzou Store — are not funded through the general operation budget and will not be impacted by the reduction.

O’Neil said the Division of Student Affairs will lose about $74,000 in general operation funds each year — nearly $300,000 over a four-year period — in addition to the self-funded salary and benefit increases that could potentially double the loss.

“The campus has not said we must give an X amount (in salary increases), but we are working to budget 2 to 3 percent salary increases throughout that time,” she said. “That would cost in the range of $75,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on what the flat benefit rate is.”

Inside the plan

Vice Chancellor for Finance Rhonda Gibler said the across-campus general operation reductions, which add up to $8.7 million annually, are being reallocated from the departments to fund the MU Strategic Operating Plan.

The university’s main goal, as stated in the plan’s strategy statement, is to, by 2018, “enhance (MU’s) academic stature as measured by publicly made available metrics, including those of the Association of American Universities,” a group of 62 top research universities across the U.S. and Canada.

To accomplish this goal, the plan emphasizes several areas into which funds are invested, such as improving interdisciplinary and experiential learning, recruiting and retaining faculty and staff, and expanding research infrastructure and resources.

A total of over $300 million is projected to fund the project between fiscal years 2014 and 2018, with additional funds coming from state funds, private donations and the UM System.

Bringing new faculty

Roughly $162 million of the plan’s five-year budget would be used to hire “additional high-impact faculty and staff to enhance MU’s academic stature.”

At the UM System Board of Curators’ June 20 meeting, Loftin said that while the plan came almost $1 million under the initial first year budget of $55 million in FY2014, MU was able to make key faculty hires, such as John Boyer from Delaware University.

Loftin said hiring Boyer, who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has helped increase the number of MU faculty that are in one of the national research academies to nine, and improve MU’s AAU metrics by 12.5 percent.

The plan’s goal is to hire six additional academy members to join MU’s faculty.

Catching up to the AAU

In addition to hiring new faculty, the plan seeks to improve compensations for existing faculty and staff, which UM Vice President of Human Resources Betsy Rodriguez described in April as currently “non-competitive.”

In 2013, MU’s average faculty salary was $94,500. Compared to the other public AAU members that same year, MU ranked 29 out of 30.

Gibler said if the relatively low salaries are not addressed, MU could experience trouble retaining some of its top faculty.

“We could easily lose some of our best and brightest faculty to universities that are willing to pay a lot more than we do,” she said. “We don’t believe that salaries are the only thing that a faculty member considers … but we don’t want to put them in a bad spot where it’s almost foolish (to stay) because they would be paid a lot more if they were willing to go to one of the other AAU institutions.”

However, increases will not be made across the board, Gibler said, because such a drastic change would be costly.

“It would take a lot of money to bring the whole set of our faculty up to the average,” she said. “We’re not trying to do that, but we’re trying to ensure that the most productive of our faculty are paid reasonably in comparison to peer institutions.”

College of Arts and Science Dean Michael O’Brien said that in some cases, MU had been able to retain those faculty members who had been offered a better salary elsewhere with “counter offers.”

“Sometimes it’s GO money that allows us to do that, but it’s also private money as well that allows us to give a renowned professor a salary augmentation,” he said.

O’Brien also said the idea to reallocate 2 percent of GO funds from departments and colleges was his, and that the plan could be essential for MU’s membership in the AAU.

“(The AAU) is the most prestigious group of 62 universities on the continent,” he said. “And for us to remain (in) that, we need to ramp up a lot of the things we do. What I’m interested in is getting people to look above a department, a program or even a college, and talk about the common good for the campus.”

Potential to earn back funds

Even academic areas are not exempt to the reallocations.

The College of Arts and Science, which maintains a much larger operating budget than Student Affairs, will see approximately $1.7 million of its $85 million budget reallocated annually over the four-year period, but O’Brien said the reallocation will not drastically change the college’s operations.

However, each affected department and college will have the opportunity to make requests to potentially earn back the reallocated funds, as long as the money is used to advance MU’s strategic plan’s objectives.

“We probably will get back the $1.7 million, but it’ll be for targeted hires, probably in areas different than what the reallocated funds came from,” he said.

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