Chancellor Mark Mone announced today during UW-Milwaukee’s fifth budget meeting that the cuts facing UWM in the first year of the biennium will most likely be to the tune of $24 million. This is a reflection of the actual $348 million in cuts to be incurred by the UW-System, instead of the initially reported $300 million in the Governor’s budget proposal.
Mone along with representatives from shared governance groups and the budget task force iterated the sentiment that UWM cannot manage these base cuts without a significant reduction and that they will wait to acknowledge acceptance of the public authority until the details of its implementation are made clear.
According to Vice Chancellor of University Relations Tom Luljak. UWM has received a total of $32 million in base budget cuts over the spread of fifteen years. Now the university is facing a proposal significantly larger of over $40 million cut in only two years.
Mone said he was pleased with the two recent resolutions passed by the UW Board of Regents. One of the resolutions “commits to the formation of two high priority committees” which will recommend policies on long standing Chapter 36 protections such as tenure and shared governance.
According to Mone, the resolution pledges to adopt current statutory language for shared governance and tenure to board until the committees have made their recommendations. Mone stated that the other resolution asks for a reduction of the base funding cut and makes the current public authority an “agreed upon public authority”.
Mark Schwartz the chair of the University Committee stated that he believes the resolutions passed by the regents were an important step forward due to positive response, from the regents in their resolutions, to the requests being made by the Chancellor and shared governance groups.
Schwartz voiced his concern with the focus on the public authority.
“There is obviously some linkage between the changes in chapter 36 and the public authority,” said Schwartz. “I think the public authority could not go through and there still could be challenges or deletions of the things we feel important in chapter 36.”
Schwartz joked that the current proposals are like being hit twice very hard, and then being asked “what’s your opinion of dental insurance?”
Mone clarified at the meeting that UWM does not plan to make modifications to the number of students it enrolls as a response to the budget cuts.
“Enrollment will continue to be critical to our future,” he said.
He also said that if UWM was not strapped with the burden of the proposed budget cuts, the university would have stabilized enrollments and created a net profit of roughly $1.2 million dollars. In the previous years UWM saw enrollment revenue decline about $4-5 million dollars a year, and has been operating on a budget that is accumulatively $20 million less than that of four years ago.
According to Robin Van Harpen the Vice Chancellor of Finance and Academic Affairs “Tuition is our main source of revenue as well, and so we can’t afford to decrease our enrollment.”
UWM administrators iterated that they were still analyzing how to mitigate the effects of the budget cut, and that everything is currently still “on the table”. According to Van Harpen, the Budget Task Force is currently focusing its planning efforts on a four to six year time frame. She also stated that they are trying to evaluate all possible costs, revenues, and savings.
Vice chancellor Luljak addressed the audience stating that the Budget Communication Task force is currently looking at communication strategies for the upcoming meetings with the Joint Finance Committee. He also said that they are currently working on putting together “key message points” for people to work off of when communicating their story.
According to Luljak, one of the foremost “key message points” is that the current cut is too large, and that UWM cannot manage a cut of this enormity and still maintain its quality.
Luljak believes another question to keep in mind is whether or not the system can be assured that the proposed public authority “can do no harm”. He said that the idea behind the public authority is to empower and provide autonomy to the universities. However, the word is still out as to whether that will in fact be the case for the UW-System.