WMU News

Budget uncertainty prompts campuswide hiring freeze

April 12, 2005

KALAMAZOO--With more than $1.9 million recently cut from Western MIchigan University's 2003-04 budget and an additional cut for all of Michigan higher education proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm for the 2005-06 year, the campus is under a strict hiring freeze announced by President Judith I. Bailey April 4.

"Given these circumstances, as we approach the fiscal year 2005-06 budget, we must be exceptionally cautious in committing base budget funds for new faculty and staff positions," Bailey said in a campuswide e-mail.

The hiring freeze is effective immediately for all Fund 11 faculty and staff positions that are not filled or did not have a signed offer pending as of April 5. Exceptions to the freeze can only be authorized by a WMU vice president, with the written approval of the president.

The move was made as the state begins its budget process for next year and after an executive order issued by the governor March 23 cut some $30 million from public universities this year, including $1.964 million from WMU's budget. If the state's fiscal situation improves, universities could see that funding restored, but predictions about Michigan's fiscal outlook for the remainder of this year and next remain guarded. The state's next revenue estimating conference is set for May 16 and should provide a clearer look at the revenue side of the state's budget for both this year and next.

Bailey heads to Lansing Wednesday, April 13, to testify before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Higher Education. Her testimony is set for the third of several sessions this spring during which all 15 public university presidents in Michigan will petition for state support for their institutions and for the higher education system as a whole. Bailey will offer similar testimony May 6 before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Higher Education.

One change from last year's budget climate is a moderation of the tuition restraint language by both the Legislature and the administration. That change emerged during talks that led to the March budget agreement that included the executive order cut.

"One positive outcome of these discussions," said Bailey, "has been the clear recognition by the governor and the Legislature that universities need a degree of budget flexibility, and that tuition restraint takes much of that flexibility away from us."

Another outcome of the March budget agreement was approval of a $12.9 million capital outlay project for the much-needed renovation of Brown Hall. The Brown Hall project was selected by WMU as the project that would best fit the state's capital outlay appropriation as well as have the greatest impact on instruction and student needs. Brown Hall was built in 1967 and is used for instruction in the departments of English, Communication and Foreign Languages.

With the state's budget planning for 2005-06 running later than last year, WMU officials say it may be months before the exact amount of WMU's state appropriation for next year is known. Last year, under similar budget pressures, the state did not finalize its budget until the fall. The state budget process is beginning with another proposed 1.8 percent cut to higher education for 2005-06. For WMU, that cut would mean an additional loss of $1.964 million.

The general fund budget and tuition rates may not be set until trustees meet in July. While later than last year, that timing is when WMU and most other public universities normally finalize those decisions.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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