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UMM laying off eight to help hit budget targets

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The University of Minnesota, Morris will lay off eight staffers and reorganize or eliminate some classes in an attempt to comply with system-wide budget cuts.

UMM Chancellor Jacquie Johnson said Friday that the cuts were difficult but at least aren't to the degree bandied about in the rumor mills in recent weeks.

She also reiterated U of M President Bob Bruininks' statement, made in Morris earlier this month, that no U campuses will be closed as the state's land-grant university wrestles with an expected $20 million reduction in state funding.

"We have such a good and distinctive mission," Johnson said. "But like in a lot of areas, we can't keep doing business they way we've done it before."

Johnson on Friday afternoon issued a message regarding the budget cuts to the campus community.

UMM officials in the last couple of months have been working to comply with directives from central officers in the Twin Cities to make 5 percent to 8 percent reductions in operation budgets, Johnson said.

All U of M campuses were ordered to make the same percentage reductions, which equals between $1.6 million and $2.6 million at UMM, she said.

"At the (Twin Cities) campuses, as large as they are, that might not seem like a lot of money," Johnson said. "But in a smaller community, (those percentages) can have a large impact."

UMM has been able to absorb some of the reductions through a system-wide hiring freeze and early retirement agreements that are effective at the end of the current school year, Johnson said.

But the scale of the reductions did require UMM officials to lay off staff workers. Eight people will lose their jobs, which, because some are part-time, totals a reduction of 6-1/2 full-time positions. Salaries and benefits account for 80 percent of the university's budget, she said.

On the academic side, UMM will hire for four positions, all of which will be replacements for employees who are leaving, Johnson said.

UMM officials also will be working to "shrink" classes but that Johnson said care is being taken to not compromise students' abilities to get the classes they need "but we're trying to be more efficient in filling the classes."

Through UMM's budget cutting efforts, some offices will be eliminated and others will be combined and reorganized, Johnson said.

"It's hard on a campus like this, but I think everyone understands," she said. "As President Bruininks said, it's not just about us. Everyone knows this is connected to what's going on everywhere."