TTU Faculty, Staff and Administrators:
Despite recent media reports about budget reductions among state agencies, including higher education, just how deeply TTU will be affected is still somewhat unknown at this point. Our budget picture will be more clearly drawn once we have a better picture of 4 things: state tax revenue income, any federal stimulus funds the state might receive, the new academic year tuition rate, and our fall enrollment numbers. The state generates sales tax revenue reports monthly, and those numbers are sharply down from previous years. If the trend continues, we could be asked to return additional money to the state before June 30. Until then, our reduction plans are centered around next fiscal year’s budget.
Meantime, we were required to plan for a couple of different budget reduction scenarios and submit our narrative descriptions of how we would address those reductions. Just before the holidays we asked each unit on campus to submit reduction plans based on a 6%, 8% and 10% tuition increase. Our “tier 1” plan would include reductions in operating and travel funds in most units, the increased use of adjunct faculty, larger faculty teaching loads, and the elimination of up to 17 professional (administrative) and support staff positions (including vacancies). If tuition rates are set significantly lower, the previously mentioned reductions would also include significant reductions in student employment funding; removal of some graduate assistantships; the reclassification of 2 part-time support staff positions; the elimination of 2 part-time support staff positions, and the elimination of 18 faculty positions (including vacant and/or filled tenure-track and one-year appointments). These descriptions have been delivered to TBR and the governor.
As you can see, we have planned to protect our academic and student personnel budgets as much as possible. However, with academics constituting some 80% of our budget, we must reduce expenses in that area if our budget cuts are deep.
Our budget committee met last week to discuss some options for addressing any personnel reductions. A voluntary buyout plan similar to that offered by the University of Memphis is chief among the options being discussed. (It is also mentioned often in suggestions compiled from our budget survey web site located at http://website.tntech.edu/budgetsurvey/.) While we have submitted preliminary materials about this possibility to the TBR for review, it is NOT YET APPROVED and cannot be considered unless the full TBR board votes to approve any such plan. The next full meeting of the board is scheduled for March.
The committee also briefly discussed the possibility of a campus-wide furlough, another suggestion mentioned often in the website submissions.
It’s important to note the difference between a “buyout plan” and a “furlough.” A buyout plan would result in the permanent elimination of positions. A furlough would consist of temporary, mandatory time-off without pay. A furlough provides temporary budget reductions, whereas the buyout would be permanent personnel cuts to specific positions.
You may have heard last week about the board’s specially-called telephone meeting. In that conference call, the regents voted to amend the personnel policy to give the chancellor authority, in times of severe state budget shortfall or impoundment, to approve requests from TBR institutions to reduce compensation, mandate furloughs without pay, and/or reduce the amount of time worked. This means any plans we develop regarding these options can be approved by the chancellor without waiting for the full board (which meets quarterly) review. It also means each institution can develop its own plan separate from other TBR universities.
It’s important to note - the TBR’s passage of this policy does NOT institute a furlough or any of the other steps at TTU or any TBR campus. The policy change permits TBR presidents and directors and their campus advisory groups to CONSIDER furloughs and the other steps listed as possible options for handling short-term budget shortfalls. None of these steps addresses longer-term budget issues, and they cannot become routine fixtures on any TBR campus.