Additional Budget Response Team strategies finalized

Additional Budget Response Team strategies finalized

Varner Hall, home of University of Nebraska Central Administration
File Photo
Varner Hall, home of University of Nebraska Central Administration

The University of Nebraska system has finalized additional cost-reduction strategies identified by the Budget Response Teams as part of a systemwide 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 list of 70-plus finalized strategies, along with frequently asked questions and other details about the Budget Response Teams, is available here.

Strategies include elimination of cell-phone reimbursements, lowering of the maximum vacation accrual, mandated use of a single travel agency, creation of a systemwide printing operation, alignment of communication and marketing functions at each of the institutions, 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 system and then vetted and approved by a steering committee, the chancellors and President Hank Bounds.

Taken together, the changes will impact virtually all employees in some way. Leaders have estimated that budget reductions will result in the loss of at least 100 positions, although the system 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, 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 the system protect, to the greatest extent possible, its priorities of affordability and academic quality. Bounds and the chancellors are monitoring the state’s fiscal situation 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 Marjorie Kostelnik, past dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences. Kostelnik said 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 system to develop specific implementation plans.

To that end, faculty, staff and students are encouraged to send feedback and questions to president@nebraska.edu. 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 system facilities, energy, procurement and human resources functions, along with continued integration of the university’s information technology services.

Additional teams in 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 institutions.

“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.”