Spending cuts means job cuts, UT chief says

Faulkner talks about impact cost-saving measures will have

By Sharon Jayson
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, February 20, 2003

University of Texas President Larry Faulkner told state lawmakers Wednesday that cutting spending by 12.5 percent will force the Austin campus to eliminate 300 staff and 250 teaching positions over the next two years.

Axing the positions and taking other cost-saving measures would save $60 million over the next two years, leaving an $80 million deficit, Faulkner said. The university already faces a $22 million annual operating budget shortfall and is continuing to defer $18 million worth of needed maintenance.

He said early budget projections show tough times for UT, including larger teaching loads, larger classes and fewer electives.

"The reductions we're talking about are going to have an impact," Faulkner told a House appropriations subcommittee. "It took generations to build the assets that UT-Austin represents for the state. It could ruin it in a decade or less."

The subcommittee also heard testimony from chancellors of the University of Houston and University of North Texas systems. Testimony is scheduled to continue today with the Texas Tech University System.

With the state facing a $9.9 billion shortfall for its 2004-05 budget, Perry and legislative leaders have asked state agencies, departments and schools to find ways to cut spending. Perry has asked every agency for 7 percent cuts from the 2002-03 budget and 12.5 percent for 2004-05.

Perry also recommended reduced funding for so-called special items -- the programs, centers or museums that provide research or a public service and are funded separately.

Faulkner said some of UT-Austin's special items, such as the McDonald Observatory in West Texas, the Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas and the Bureau of Economic Geology are too valuable to eliminate. He said he'll have to come up with the money for those programs by cutting other campus costs.

"We can't put ourselves in the position of abandoning these units," he said.

UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof said the 12.5 percent cut would mean that the 15-campus system would get $2.4 billion in general revenue -- 2.8 percent more than it received in 1998-99.

"I can say we'll all try to be more efficient and cut fat, but there won't be any free ride," he said. "All of the decisions will have an impact one place or another in the system. And at some point, it will have an impact on the quality of educational services."

Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, was particularly concerned about the UT System's administrative offices. The offices have almost 250 employees compared with the Texas State University System, which he said operates with a dozen people. He asked for an organizational chart and a listing of the numbers of employees who serve each executive.

"The overhead at the UT System seems significantly larger than some of the other comparable systems," he said.

Yudof said he shares Branch's concerns.

Lawmakers raised other worries.

Reps. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, and Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, asked about minority recruitment. Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the subcommittee chairman, wanted to discuss any needed changes in the top 10 percent law, under which Texas colleges and universities must admit students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.