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Feb. 16, 2010 - Public universities across the state, including TTU, have begun preparing for another six percent reduction in base state appropriations, but that reduction could reach as high as 9 percent if Governor Phil Bredesen’s proposed tax and fee increases are not passed by the legislature.

Bredesen proposed the 6 percent reduction for higher education in his State of the State address early this month. His budget proposal included a 9 percent cut in other state departments, but recommended a plan to adjust taxes on cable services and other select taxes to avoid deeper cuts for higher education and save some state employee positions. (See “Highlights of governor’s proposed budget”.)

News reports indicate the legislature appears reluctant to consider tax or fee increases, so reductions for TTU and other universities could increase another three percent.

A six percent cut would result in total state appropriation reductions of more than 30 percent since 2008, a dramatic drop that has been temporarily offset with stimulus funding and maintenance of effort support from the state. That funding will disappear by the end of next fiscal year. The most recent reductions must take place by July 1 of this year, however.

“Campus units must consider how to make reductions while continuing to operate effectively,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “For some units, that may include eliminating some personnel positions.

“Given the number of cuts over the last two years and recognizing the severity of these new reductions, the university will most likely have to consider a reduction in force.”

A reduction in force would constitute a strategic elimination of positions, either vacant or filled, as identified by operating units across the campus as a way to address deep budget cuts.

“We are evaluating policies at the Tennessee Board of Regents and how they apply to our university,” Bell said. “We have met with unit heads to provide general ideas of how position cuts may take place, but no plan has been developed at this point, and nothing has been approved yet. We are only in preliminary discussions now. Any talk of specific positions right now would be purely speculative and inappropriate.”

The TBR policy on reductions in force can be seen in section E-6 of the following web site:

Only two points related to personnel reductions are definite at this time, Bell said. The first is that no other voluntary buyouts will be offered. And the second is that every effort will be made to work with anyone affected to identify other opportunities on campus if position vacancies become available.

“I want to emphasize that we will not be offering any other buyouts,” stressed Claire Stinson, vice president of Business and Planning. “These cuts are too deep. Only strategic plans and what’s best overall for the future of the university must be considered. Funds are not available, and the outlook is not good for any budget improvements over the next several years.”

The 6 percent (or 9 percent, depending on decisions made by the legislature) reduction in base budget will be effective July 1, 2010.

Units across campus are already working on possible scenarios for budget reductions, including proposals for the possibility of both a 6-percent and 9-percent cut. However, all units will have an opportunity to go back and revise their proposals once the impact is known, Stinson said.

One of the most visible cuts already in the works is the elimination of the Industrial and Systems Engineering academic program within the College of Engineering. (See “Termination of Industrial Engineering Degree Planned.”)

Reduction scenarios are being considered and discussed in the joint Strategic Planning and Budget Committee, the Executive Advisory Committee and the Academic Affairs councils. If and when a plan for any reduction in force is developed, any affected personnel will be notified directly.

“We want to stress that any official news about budget reductions and other changes that may affect our faculty and staff will be provided as quickly as possible once decisions are made and approval is received,” Bell said. “As the budget modifications unfold, the campus will be updated through the Tech Times.”