Oct. 15

Board president suggests options for meeting mid-year reversion

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State leaders have about 14 days to come up with a plan to cut $24.5 million from the university's current operating budget. The state Board of Regents officially requested that plan during an emergency meeting Oct. 14. It's due on or before the board's next regular meeting on Oct. 29.

The directive comes on the heels of Gov. Chet Culver's Oct. 8 decision to implement a 10 percent across-the-board cut in state funding due to shrinking state revenues.

At Iowa State this year, that 10 percent amounts to $24.5 million.

"We have a lot of work, a lot of analysis, to do," said president Gregory Geoffroy. He said Iowa State would take all that time to consider the options.

Some guidelines

Board president David Miles asked Geoffroy and the other institution heads to consider these seven options in their planning:

  • Temporary salary reductions (and consider whether any proposed reductions should be less for lower-income workers)
  • Temporary layoffs, including furloughs, to reduce the number of permanent layoffs required and preserve jobs
  • Benefit revisions, including temporary reductions to retirement contributions, or temporary or permanent revisions to other benefit programs
  • A "very modest" tuition surcharge for spring semester 2010 (one-time and not a permanent addition to the tuition base)
  • Postpone non-essential deferred maintenance and repairs
  • Consider where to refocus efforts in a significant way and/or potentially eliminate programs
  • Permanent layoffs -- as a last measure if other measures can't completely close the gap, or where it makes sense for the future of an institution

Regent Michael Gartner added an eighth consideration:

  • Evaluate selling non-essential assets to meet one-time cuts

Miles directed the institution leaders to work in good faith with all employee groups, students, the governor and legislature in developing their plans. He also asked that "the pain of actions required" be spread across all employee groups.

Hiring freeze on, building moratorium off

Board members unanimously approved a motion to continue Miles' Oct. 8 directive for a hiring freeze at the regent institutions for positions funded from state General Fund appropriations. The freeze will continue until the board approves the institutions' plans to meet the funding reductions.

Miles withdrew his motion for a moratorium on new construction. He noted that the normal regent approval process gives universities and the board the chance to assess the impact of new facilities on operating budgets. And he said this is a consideration the board will look more closely at in the future when it reviews new building proposals.

He said confusion about what projects a moratorium would cover, and the cost to the schools of unrecoverable planning and design expenses also factored in his decision.

The proposals

Miles requested that the budget reduction proposals the universities submit for the board's consideration include flexibility and some options, rather than a single, take-it-or-leave-it plan.

"I have tremendous confidence in our institution heads, but we need to have on the table some options -- including 'here's what we also considered but don't favor' -- so we can have a very interactive session on the 29th," he said.