UM faces $6M budget shortfall


UM facing $6M budget shortfall

MISSOULA, Mont. - Not a freeze, but a chill -- that's what University of Montana officials are calling a halt on hiring.

"If you use the word freeze, to me, I would think it means that's it, no more hiring," said UM Vice President for Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr. "In reality we're using the word chill or I would say a slowdown, it's really just a strategic hiring practice."

No matter what you call it, it means some jobs at UM won't be replaced.

"A position may be combined with another position," Kuhr said.  "It may be eliminated if we can decide that we really could shoulder up and take a little more work on."

Officials need to make up for a $6 million budget shortfall in 2014. That's due to another enrollment shortfall for the university; it's seen a decline since 2012. Efforts are still focused on recruitment.  

"Because we are so reliant on enrollment numbers, obviously that is a huge goal for us," Kuhr said.

But the university still has to make up for what's happening now. That means any position that opens up won't be filled unless it's absolutely necessary.

"There is a group of Vice Presidents and they will look at all those positions and the justifications for them."

For example 16 positions under the Administration and Finance Department won't be filled. And four jobs in the Research Department will be left open. But Kuhr added the same percentage of the budget will go to instruction.

"We are striving for 50 percent of the overall budget is devoted to instruction."

As for direct impacts students and faculty will see -- "You may notice that custodians aren't coming to your office and picking up the garbage every day, maybe it's a couple times a week," Kuhr said. "There may be a front desk person where they're serving several departments or working for several different people."

For the fiscal year 2015 budget President Royce Engstrom wrote in a campus-wide letter that the University will take a conservative approach, even though UM will have a slight increase in the overall budget. The university is looking at ways to cut costs permanently, making $9 million in reductions. But Engstrom added increased expenditures will be funded, including increases for employee salaries.

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