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  March 3, 2003

University To Feel Impact Of
State Budget Reductions
By Karen A. Grava

A revised state budget for the current fiscal year was adopted by both chambers of the General Assembly late last week and awaits action by Gov. John G. Rowland. If the Governor signs the bill, the University will face additional cuts this year of more than $1.2 million for the Storrs-based programs and an additional $464,000 at the Health Center.

That brings the aggregate cuts in this year's budget, not counting cuts to fringe benefits, to $11.4 million for the Storrs-based programs and $2.5 million for the Health Center. The original Fiscal Year '03 appropriation to the University was $203.9 million for the Storrs-based programs and $76.3 million for the Health Center. After the cuts, the Fiscal Year '03 appropriations are $192.5 million for Storrs and $73.8 million for the Health Center.

"While not good news, this development is not a surprise," said Lorraine Aronson, vice president for financial planning and management. "These numbers are consistent with what we had heard was under consideration during the last couple of weeks. We have been planning to ensure that we can cope with these cuts. It will be quite a challenge to meet the cuts without further staffing reductions."

The challenge is particularly daunting in the face of the extremely cold and snowy winter that has caused the University to incur extra costs to heat buildings and clear sidewalks and parking lots, Aronson noted.

She said the University is still reviewing the budget revisions to determine whether other items in the revised budget will affect the University. But she noted that although the Legislature adopted a provision that grants the governor increased rescission authority, it does exempt the state's higher education institutions from that additional authority. "That is a positive note for us," she said.

"It goes without saying that we will continue to do our best to make the adjustments necessary to achieve our FY '03 budget targets. With historic enrollment, constraints in the health care market, spiking energy costs, and Mother Nature's winter wrath, that goal will not be easily accomplished," she said.

And it is still unclear what additional cuts over current services might be necessary in next year's budget, which the governor is expected to propose to the Legislature on March 4. State budget constraints make it possible that the University will face further reductions.

The University has reached a tentative agreement with the American Association of University Professors promising that in return for forgoing an annual salary increase that was scheduled to be implemented in July, faculty reductions will be restricted to programmatic changes.

The agreement must be ratified by the union, the Board of Trustees, and the General Assembly before it takes effect. It is the only agreement to date with a state employee bargaining unit to cut costs.

The revised state budget adopted by the General Assembly also includes a retirement incentive package that allows employees in the state retirement system who are at least 52 years old with 10 years of service to add three chits to either their age or their length of service. They would have to retire no later than this June to be eligible. The provision allows for some rehiring to replace employees who accept the retirement package, but it is unknown how many employees might accept the package or how many positions could be refilled.

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