UM looks to make one-time budget reductions permanent

2013-10-05T09:35:00Z 2013-10-07T00:03:04Z UM looks to make one-time budget reductions permanentBy MARTIN KIDSTON Missoulian The Billings Gazette
October 05, 2013 9:35 am  • 

As the University of Montana crunches its fall enrollment numbers, it’s also looking to make long-term changes to how it allocates money across campus – a move that could hold implications for several programs.

The university last week released its fall census, reporting an enrollment of 14,525 students. The numbers are on par with what school officials predicted last year when drafting the fiscal year 2014 budget.

That budget, however, relied on a series of one-time reductions amounting to roughly $1 million. With smaller classes now moving through UM, officials are looking to make those reductions permanent, bringing its fiscal house in line with today’s enrollment reality.

“There’s going to be a tremendous change on how we allocate resources and what that means to the institution starting in fiscal year 2015,” said Michael Reid, vice president of administration and finance. “We’re looking at identifying how we transition these one-time reductions to permanent reductions, so that we can live within the means of what our enrollment looks like.”

To gain momentum and build the school around changing student demands, Reid said, the university must invest in growing programs, possibly to the detriment of areas where student interest may be waning.

The conversations have already begun, and Reid said they have, and will continue to include, input from the campus community.

“You might see some areas get increased funding while other areas are getting significant decreases,” Reid said. “That’s going to be a method that comes out of that budget allocation, and it’s going to be tied to enrollment.

“Programs that are growing will get the resources they need to continue growing,” Reid added. “Programs that aren’t growing will receive limited resources.”

The discussion played out at this week at a University Council meeting, where administrators and staff dove into a lesson focused on the nuts and bolts of a university budget.

With an ever-fluctuating enrollment, a $125 million payroll and $161 million authorized for spending in the school’s general fund, the mathematics must be precise.

Of the school’s $161 million general fund, roughly $100 million stems from revenue gained through tuition. Around $93 million goes back to pay salaries, while $32 million goes toward benefits.

Dawn Ressel, associate vice president for planning, budgeting and analysis, said the university is currently crunching this year’s enrollment numbers and digging into student demographics.

Tuition costs vary for different groups and that carries implications in the overall budget. The numbers also may reveal trends, officials said, such as what programs are growing and which ones are not.

The enrollment report is expected out in the next few weeks.

“A budget is put together on what we think is going to happen,” said Ressel. “When we start talking about budget implications, we’re going to be talking about what we actually hit versus what we were hoping would happen. That analysis takes time. We’re still digging into all that information to determine what’s going on.”

University officials also have formed five committees – known together as the Planning Assessment Continuum – to look for ways of reducing costs.

The groups cover revenue enhancement, academic programming, strategic enrollment, resource allocation and costs savings. They’re expected to present their findings by Oct. 21.

In addition to the $1 million in savings that must be carried over into next year’s budget, Reid said, the university also must trim roughly $600,000 from its central fund.

The central fund pertains to such things as utilities, printing and software purchases, among other areas. Finding the savings now, Reid said, will make them easier to achieve before the academic year ends next spring.

“We’ve got a lot of information coming from the strategic groups that we’re anxious to see and evaluate,” he said. “It’s easier to absorb $600,000 over 10 months than it is over two months.”

To find out more about the Planning Assessment Continuum, who’s on each committee and to read minutes from past meetings, visit

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