Expected deficit prompts UF hiring freeze
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida is instituting a campuswide hiring freeze effective today in response to a projected deficit that could range from $20 million to $30 million caused by a significant decline in revenue and rising expenses.
The hiring freeze will apply to all faculty and staff at all UF units statewide. Exceptions to the hiring freeze will be considered for positions funded from nonstate sources, such as clinical revenue — money generated from patient care provided by UF faculty — and contracts and grants.
The revenue shortfall is a result of no tuition increase for the upcoming year and a change in the way the Legislature funds enrollment. In addition, a slowing economy is creating a slump in sales tax revenue, which state officials say could lead to a budget shortfall later this year; Gov. Charlie Crist last week told state agencies to plan on budget cuts for the next two years. Finally, the future of the property tax situation in Florida remains uncertain.
On Friday, the Governor’s Office sent communication to all state agency heads instructing them to anticipate a minimum reduction of 4 percent in recurring General Revenue Fund appropriations during Fiscal Years 2007-08 and 2008-09.
“We are tremendously grateful to Gov. Crist for allowing the tuition differential program to become law,” UF President Bernie Machen said. ”Gov. Crist truly has the vision of what it takes to keep higher education in Florida moving in the right direction, but we still have a gap to cover before we start to implement that program next year. That means we need to take some action now that will help get us to more financially solid ground.”
“This was not an easy decision,” Machen said. “Education is our top priority, so we need to make sure that we continue to give our students the classes and other services they need.”
• Salary increases for faculty members who are being promoted.
• Health insurance for graduate students.
• Funding for the second year of the first class and for the incoming class of Florida Opportunity Scholars, a program that helps cover school-related costs for first-generation college students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The hiring freeze is the first of several measures the university plans to use in addressing the deficit.
Machen said he will appoint a task force of faculty, staff and students to help identify ways the university can reduce costs and improve efficiency, both in the short term and over the long haul. Examples that may be considered include reducing energy and utility expenditures; harnessing UF’s buying power to lower costs and get better service levels from suppliers; outsourcing certain functions and activities; and using electronic delivery for some publications that currently are printed and mailed.
The university also will examine ways to find other funding, such as increasing the number of credit hours undergraduates take each semester. Students would benefit by graduating sooner and entering the workforce more quickly, Machen said, allowing them to reduce the cost of earning a degree and increase their lifetime earning potential.
In addition, the university may encourage its 26 Direct Support Organizations, or DSOs, to contribute to the university’s academic enterprise. The University Athletic Association, for instance, already makes contributions that benefit students, and the administration will encourage the other DSOs to do the same.
Finally, the university will require all deans, director and department heads to re-examine specific uses of state funds and to use unrestricted money from nonstate sources whenever possible.
For example, university units might be required to use interest earnings from endowments and other UF Foundation accounts rather than state money to fund faculty salaries.
The following Web link provides answers to other possible questions about the hiring freeze: http://news.ufl.edu/2007/07/02/hiring-freeze-q-a/.
- Steve Orlando, email@example.com