The University of Nebraska has finalized additional cost-reduction strategies identified by the Budget Response Teams as part of a university-wide effort to close a $49 million shortfall. The shortfall is brought on by cuts in state funding combined with the university’s rising costs.
The complete list of 70-plus finalized strategies, along with frequently asked questions and other details about the Budget Response Teams, is available at www.nebraska.edu/BRT.
Strategies include elimination of cell-phone reimbursements, lowering of the maximum vacation accrual, mandated use of a single travel agency, creation of a university-wide printing operation, alignment of campus-based communication and marketing functions, and consolidation of custodial, landscape services and building maintenance and operations, among others. The changes were recommended by teams of subject-matter experts from across and outside the university and then vetted and approved by a steering committee, the NU chancellors and President Hank Bounds.
Taken together, the changes will impact virtually all employees in some way. University leaders have estimated that budget reductions will result in the loss of at least 100 positions, although the university is continuing to look for personnel savings through attrition or other means before reduction-in-force decisions are made.
While acknowledging the difficulty and complexity of making cuts, the university’s leadership praised colleagues who served on the Budget Response Teams for their comprehensive and diligent efforts to reduce operational spending. Their work, which began in January after Bounds convened the teams, will yield $30 million in savings in the next few years, helping NU protect, to the greatest extent possible, its priorities of affordability and academic quality. Bounds and the chancellors are monitoring the state’s fiscal situation closely and have said that additional funding cuts would have a more significant and direct impact on both tuition and academic programs.
“This is tough work – tougher still because budget cuts of the past have left us with little low-hanging fruit,” Bounds said. “Our colleagues have risen to the challenge. We’ve looked under every rock for savings and as a result, we’re in a better position to preserve our momentum going forward.
“At the same time, we can’t cut our way to excellence. The University of Nebraska must be a key part of the solution for growing our state out of the current fiscal challenges. We’re going to continue to talk with Nebraskans every chance we get about how we can work together to grow this state’s economy and quality of life.”
Implementation of the Budget Response Team strategies is being led by Dr. Marjorie Kostelnik, past dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences. Kostelnik noted that implementation details for many of the strategies, including how and when they will be put in place, are yet to be determined and finalized. Members of the Budget Response Teams will engage with stakeholders across the university to develop specific implementation plans.
To that end, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to send feedback and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information for Budget Response Team chairs is also listed online.
“I’m impressed by how thoughtfully these team members have approached the process of re-imagining our operations for the future,” Kostelnik said. “We have work ahead of us to put these strategies in place, but I feel good about where we’re headed, thanks to the forward thinking of our colleagues who have chosen to see opportunity in this very significant challenge.”
Previously announced changes identified by the Budget Response Teams include consolidation of NU’s facilities, energy, procurement and human resources functions, along with continued integration of the university’s information technology services.
Additional teams in campus safety and parking have been convened to explore opportunities to integrate and save dollars, while teams in research services and institutional research are examining best practices for working more effectively across the campuses.
“These changes will accomplish several goals,” Kostelnik said. “One, they will allow us to capture necessary savings. But they will also help us continue to do the work that Nebraskans expect and deserve: quality education, research and service that moves our state forward.”