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Mason: No cliff effect in budget

BY EMILY BUSSE | APRIL 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials said they are confident they have dodged any layoffs, furloughs, or a budget plunge for next year, and they plan to increase faculty salary.

Through “judicious” use of nonrecurring resources and strategic savings, UI President Sally Mason told the state Board of Regents Thursday she is prepared to begin a new fiscal year with a well-balanced budget.

“Our goal continues to be to manage the budget down gradually so there will be no cliff effect,” Mason said.

Despite last October’s announcement of 20 potential layoffs after a 10 percent across-the-board cut, she said layoffs “were never part of the plan” for next fiscal year. In fact, she said the university hopes to add 10 more faculty positions by next year.

The University of Northern Iowa is not planning any layoffs or furloughs, either, but Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy said his school will most likely see some job cuts.

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The UI’s budget plan for fiscal 2011 includes savings of $85,000 by reducing support of Iowa Public Radio, $125,000 from closing a number of satellite libraries, $300,000 a year by eliminating paper billing, and $100,000 annually from energy efficiencies.

The pool of money officials crafted to provide for salary raises will be funded in part by a 1.5 percent budget cut from academic units.

The two cuts will save a total of $5 million and provide for an average pay raise of 2 percent, Mason said.

“Being able to say thank you with modest salary increases is more important than ever,” she said.

Regent President David Miles said he hopes the faculty who are getting the raises see this as a “good sign.”

But the raises will be granted on a merit-based system, meaning some faculty could receive more than a 2 percent raise while others would receive less.

The pay increase will help close the gap between UI salaries and those at other Big Ten schools, said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

During an interview with The Daily Iowan two weeks ago, Mason said other institutions, such as the Michigan schools, were able to give their faculty pay raises despite hefty budget cuts — a move that caused the UI to “slip down a notch” in comparison.

“Hopefully, it will at least avoid losing any more ground, because we’re not sure what those other institutions may do themselves,” Moore said.

Additional savings will come from a temporary 2 percent reduction in TIAA-CREF retirement benefits. The savings are projected to total at $4.7 million, and officials said the reduction will be restored by June 20, 2011. Another $2.4 million in savings are anticipated to come from additional reduction of other fringe benefits.

UNI and ISU plan to restore TIAA-CREF funds, but Miles said he is not concerned with the temporary “fairly minor difference in terms of benefits.”

With next year’s budget, being able to avoid layoffs and refunding the $100 surcharge this month make the UI a competitive school, Mason said, and the university will always promise a quality education to students.

“We aren’t backing away from that in any way,” she said. “I think that’s attractive to students.”

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