Proposed State Appropriation Cuts and UNH Budget Preparations

Dear Members of the UNH Community,
 
With the state’s contribution to the University of New Hampshire budget now in the hands of the state Senate, I’d like to update you on our efforts to keep UNH strong and to prepare for what a sudden loss of revenue from the state will mean.
 
On April 18, I joined University System of New Hampshire trustees, staff, alumni, and students in testifying before state Senate budget writers. We continue to press our case both directly with members of the state Senate, and through their constituents and key stakeholders.
 
The state Senate is expected to vote on its version of the state budget on June 2. The House has already approved a two-year budget that would result in a 45 percent cut in state funding to the University System—for UNH, a drastic loss of $31 million. In June, the full House and Senate must reconcile any differences in their budgets, before passing a final version on to Gov. John Lynch for approval by the end of the month.
 
The timeframe is short. The outcome is uncertain. And make no mistake—a loss of many millions of dollars will be serious, and felt at every level of UNH.
 
As I write, University administrators, faculty, staff, and students are meeting regularly and working hard to identify all the options. Foremost among their concerns is a desire to preserve our commitment to excellence in education, scholarship, and research; minimize the impact on tuition; and acknowledge the value we place in the people who make up the UNH community.
 
The Budget Task Force is poring over hundreds of suggestions offered through the Keep UNH Strong website, weighing the pros and cons and the potential savings or new revenues that each could generate.
 
Until we know the precise level of cuts that are approved by state lawmakers, I feel it is prudent to plan for the 45 percent cut in the state’s contribution that is on the table. Therefore, I have charged University management with planning for such a cut by implementing the following:
 
    •    A hiring freeze.
    •    A salary freeze.
    •    A voluntary separation incentive plan (SIP).
 
These short-term steps are intended to meet the budget requirements of FY12, while we continue to pursue our Strategic Plan in ways that will help us grow out of our current budget limitations, and increase our independence from state support.
 
The details of these steps are still being finalized, but I approve of their implementation as short-term measures to balance the FY12 budget. Later today, the Vice President of Finance and Administration office will send a letter to University budget managers outlining implementation guidelines.
 
The steps identified today—in addition to earlier reductions in employee benefits—are part of an ongoing, careful, deliberative, and difficult process being addressed in consultation with the University community. Some of these efforts may need to be approved by the University System Board of Trustees.
 
I also expect to have a full report on these and other longer-term recommendations from the Budget Task Force soon. I will study the report before making final decisions for the short-term strategies to address the FY12 budget, as well as the longer-term recommendations provided by the Task Force. The impact of some of these longer-term steps will not be realized until the FY13/14 budgets.
 
As this process moves forward, we will act with sensitivity for all involved, and the good of the University. I will continue to speak with state lawmakers, business leaders, and other constituents about the quality of UNH faculty, students, and programs, and the vital role of this institution in supporting New Hampshire’s quality of life.
 
I will continue to communicate frequently with the University community until we resolve this challenge. Thank you, again, for your support and understanding,
 
Mark W. Huddleston
President