Conclusion of the Legislative Session
Thursday, June 30, 2011
We have just concluded one of the most challenging legislative sessions in recent Texas history.
As we continue to assess the outcomes and adjust our plans, expectations, and budgets accordingly, I want to express our gratitude to our elected officials, especially our North Texas delegation, for their ongoing leadership and support. We are very appreciative of their hard work and dedication.
It’s fair to say that we did not approach the session with great optimism. Quite frankly, we were braced for the worst. In the aftermath of the recession and the resulting state revenue shortage, universities and other entities that depend to varying degrees on state funding were anticipating massive state revenue reductions. The reductions did, in fact, materialize, but not to the extent we feared. UT Arlington was not hit as hard as many other institutions due in great part to the sustained enrollment growth we have experienced the past few years.
Like all of you, I wish we could breathe a collective sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. We are not out of the woods.
The state revenue reductions continue to be both persistent and pervasive. While we can take some comfort in the fact that reductions for the next biennium are not as drastic as originally proposed by the House and Senate, this is no time to let down our guard.
If the past is prologue, we must continue to conserve financial resources, spend wisely, and anticipate the possibility of future state revenue shortfalls. This scenario will be with us for the foreseeable future.
The impact on the University cannot be understated. During the past year, we have taken a number of substantive steps to adjust to successive state revenue reductions and to curtail costs across the University.
• UT Arlington has absorbed two state revenue reductions in the current fiscal year alone—one for 5 percent and one for 2.5 percent—totaling $10.2 million. These are permanent reductions to the University’s budget.
• We currently are finalizing the University’s FY 2012 budget, which reflects a 5.7 percent reduction in state funding for operations, as compared to the last biennium.
• The University successfully implemented two Voluntary Separation Incentive Programs. Last summer, 59 individuals participated in the program offered to eligible staff members. And this summer, 27 tenured and tenure-track faculty members took advantage of a similar program.
• UT Arlington continues to reduce payroll and benefits costs through attrition, elimination of vacant positions, consolidation, and outsourcing.
We will continue to closely scrutinize how we allocate, manage, and invest resources across the University. This will require continued discipline and focus.
• We have managed to avoid implementing across-the-board reductions in staffing this summer. We will, however, continue to reorganize, reallocate, and realign our human and financial resources to meet new budget reduction targets and to achieve greater efficiency.
• We will maintain the flexible hiring freeze, which has served the University well for more than two years. The Senior Hiring Review Committee continues to review all requests to fill vacant positions or create new ones.
• We will continue to be entrepreneurial in developing new revenue streams. For example, the University is actively working to increase private philanthropic support and is in the early stages of planning for its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. Likewise, the College Park District is expected to generate new revenues through the College Park Center, retail, student housing, and parking. And the Division for Enterprise Development continues to expand operations and generate new revenue streams.
Against this evolving backdrop, our top priorities remain constant—providing an unparalleled education for our students and pursuing our goal to become a Tier One research institution. They are the ultimate beneficiaries of our unwavering commitment to teaching, research, and service. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to invest our resources in initiatives that support our core mission, advance our strategic priorities, and fuel our Tier One agenda.
Finally, it is clear that open and straightforward communication is essential to helping the University manage difficult times. Provost Don Bobbitt and I have held a number of town hall meetings this year, and we will continue to hold periodic meetings. The next one is scheduled for Friday, July 22, from noon to 1 p.m. in the upstairs lounge of the Maverick Activities Center.
James D. Spaniolo