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Cost savings task force established by President

by Richard Veilleux & Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - November 17, 2008


In response to the economic recession, University President Michael J. Hogan has announced a broad-based effort to identify cost savings, efficiencies, and revenue enhancements.

The initiative will be led by a new group, the Costs, Operations, & Revenue Efficiencies (CORE) Task Force, that will examine a wide range of University operations with the goal of protecting core academic programs and strategic priorities.

The task force, comprising faculty, staff, and administrators, will be co-chaired by Executive Vice President and Provost Peter Nicholls, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Gray, and Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Barry Feldman.

The charge to the task force is posted on the president’s web site.

Among the areas the group will examine are budgeting, utilities, productivity, administrative procedures, procurement, and information technology systems. The task force’s initial report is due in spring 2009.

In a written statement to the University Senate (available online), Hogan noted that most of the University’s resources are “tied up in faculty, staff, and services that are essential to our academic mission.” In light of that, he said, rescissions are painful and must be made “with an eye to minimizing the adverse impact on the education we provide, the research we conduct, and the revenues we generate.

“We must make every effort to impose efficiencies, contain costs, and seek every additional dollar of revenue possible in order to help us meet our obligation to the state and to our students,” he said.

At the same time, Hogan pledged to continue to vigorously present the University’s case to the General Assembly, the Office of Policy and Management, and others in state government in an effort to avoid rescissions beyond those already experienced.

On Nov. 12, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced new state deficit estimates for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 of $2.6 billion and $3.3 billion respectively.

Hogan has asked the task force to identify ways to achieve cost savings equivalent to between 3 percent and 5 percent of the University’s state appropriation, and revenue enhancements, excluding tuition and fees and state appropriations, of between 2 percent and 3 percent.

While emphasizing the seriousness of the budget situation, Hogan also expressed the hope that the University will emerge stronger. He said the task force “will help us imagine new ways of thinking about our day-to-day activities, programs, and operations.”

He noted that the task force will consult broadly with constituencies and stakeholders in the areas it examines, and, in an e-mail letter, he invited all members of the University community to make suggestions to the task force co-chairs regarding cost-savings, efficiencies, and revenue enhancements.

“We have some of the most innovative minds in the world right here at UConn,” said Hogan.

“By engaging members of the University community in this effort, I’m confident we can find new ways to approach our day-to-day work that will generate greater efficiencies, cost savings, and increased revenues.”

Possible increases in student charges will be considered separately. Because of the current economic uncertainties, Hogan has decided to delay discussions with the community and the Board of Trustees regarding tuition and fees for the 2010 academic year.

He said that although it is likely tuition and other charges will increase, as they do every year to address increased costs, “we nonetheless want to minimize increasing charges to students or enacting lay-offs in order to manage the budget crisis ahead of us.”

The task force will also undertake a review of budgeting and operations at comparable public research universities, as well as efficiency and cost savings strategies at those institutions, to identify “best practices.”

UConn has already implemented significant cost reductions as a result of a 3 percent rescission to the University’s state appropriation for fiscal year 2009.

Substantial savings have been achieved by placing strict limits on out-of-state travel and implementing a hiring freeze, except for the most critical positions.

In addition, energy costs have been reduced through conservation measures and efficiencies resulting from the recently constructed cogeneration plant.

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