Hard times at UA | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hard times at UA

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 10:09 AM

A reader passes along a memo University of Arkansas Chancellor David Gearhart has sent to university employees. It says a hoped-for Christmas bonus, in a year without salary increases, will be scrapped because of the recent state budget cut. He said the university would be able to absorb health insurance premium increases for employees through June, 2010.

EMAIL FROM DAVID GEARHART

As you no doubt already know, the state's fiscal outlook has taken a downward turn. This has necessitated funding cuts to state agencies including all public universities. We recently were notified that the cut to our current fiscal year budget will be approximately $2.42
million, funds that already had been budgeted in a very, very tight fiscal year.

While this cut comes at a most difficult time, compared to some of our peer institutions in the SEC and across the country we are in much better shape. Several SEC universities have endured catastrophic budget cuts in excess of $40 million from their state appropriations. Fortunately, unlike so many of our peers, we have not had to institute
layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts.

Although it has been my aspiration to offset the lack of salary increases this year with a one-time stipend around the holiday season, the darkening budget outlook has negated the university's ability to proceed with this plan. Funds we had set aside for one-time stipends,
subject to Board of Trustees approval in November, are now needed to offset the unexpected loss of state revenue.

However, the university will be able to pick up the full cost of medical insurance premium increases through June 30, 2010 as a way of providing some degree of assistance to our faculty and staff during these difficult times. The university previously had committed to
covering premium increases only through this December.

Please know that I deeply regret our inability to provide any modest compensatory support to our outstanding faculty and staff. It pains me personally to continue to build the university on the backs of our university family, but we believe it prudent to take this cautious approach given the recent cuts. We also wanted to notify the community as soon as this change of plan became apparent, so that expectation of a stipend was not factored into individuals' holiday budgets.

Financially speaking, we have a great deal for which to be thankful -- although I realize that doesn't help when the paycheck of so many valued faculty and staff doesn't at least keep pace with annual cost of living increases. Salary increases and expanding our faculty to meet the needs of our growing student body continue to be very high priorities, and we hope for better days ahead.

We appreciate your ongoing understanding as we continue to do our best to weather the current economic storm together.

G. David Gearhart
Chancellor
University of Arkansas

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