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  June 17, 2002

Budget Awaited, Steps Taken to Promote Savings
By Karen A. Grava

Concerned about possible cutbacks in the state's appropriation to the University for fiscal 2003, and at the request of Marc Ryan, Secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, UConn officials early last month imposed a freeze on hiring employees for all but the most critical positions, and began to limit out-of-state travel.

In May, Gov. John G. Rowland directed state agencies to freeze hiring and consultant contracts and limit out-of-state travel.

Although the University has independent statutory authority to manage its own expenditures and hiring, President Philip E. Austin said he felt it necessary to take action because "the University's finances are intertwined with the fiscal challenges that confront the state as a whole, and it is virtually certain that we will face severe constraints in state operating budget appropriations next year and perhaps thereafter."

The president's decision was made as budget discussions about ways to cut spending and increase revenue continue between the General Assembly and the governor at the state Capitol.

Austin said he is hopeful that the administrative measures he is putting in place will be for a limited period. The measures are designed "to promote savings and avert long-term commitments that we are not certain we can afford."

The administrative measures include:

  • Implementing a hiring freeze on all but the most critical positions;

  • Instituting additional expenditure controls; and

  • Closely evaluating all contractual relationships with external vendors, ranging from the purchase of goods to personal service agreements.

The measures mean that for Storrs-based programs, the only hiring that will be considered is for positions critical to health and safety; those budgeted as strategic priorities; and those budgeted to meet the demands generated by increased enrollments.

Requests to fill positions and any offer of employment and salary level must be approved in writing by Chancellor John Petersen and Lorraine Aronson, vice president for financial planning and management.

Travel and contractual activities must be approved by Dale Dreyfuss, vice chancellor for business and administration, who will evaluate both expenditure levels and the requests. The review process will recognize the necessity for activities related to grants and contracts.

At the Health Center, hiring will be only for positions related to health and safety, patient care and the Signature Programs. Both searches and offer letters must gain the approval of Peter Deckers, executive vice president of the Health Center and dean of the School of Medicine, and Aronson. Out-of-state travel and consultant services not funded by grants will require the approval of Susan Whetstone, chief administrative officer.

"The Health Center faces unique fiscal challenges as a direct result of continuing inadequacies in the current system of health care reimbursement," said Deckers. "Unfortunately, the deterioration in the state's financial condition will no doubt exacerbate an already difficult fiscal picture here at the Heath Center. Still, I remain confident that the commitment of our very talented and caring workforce will allow us to withstand even this new challenge."

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