New Budget Cut Questions

In a message to you a couple of weeks ago I listed a number of questions to which I suggested members of the university community – faculty, staff, students – deserved an answer. The chief ones, of course, were why the administration is not drawing on the university’s reserves to cover the temporary budget short-fall — as the legislature expects and as other SUS institutions are doing, — and why it is alone among these institutions to continue large-scale hiring while cutting existing programs.

Since I wrote, UFF-UF has been studying the university’s audited financial statement and other reports by the administration. As a result, a number of additional questions have arisen.

First, while UF’s financial statement, certified by the state auditor general, gives the amount of unrestricted funds held by the university at the end of the fiscal year 2011 as $110 million, according to the Gainesville Sun “UF officials reported to the Board of Governors that it had $67.3 million remaining in reserves as of December.” Apparently, $42.7 million has been spent in the six months preceding the legislative session. The administration should tell us what it deemed worthy to have nearly 40% of UF’s reserves spent on it at a time when budget problems were widely anticipated.

Second, while the administration is correct that $40.8 of the remaining funds must be held back to maintain a reserve equaling 5% of its education and general revenue operating budget, as required by law, we must ask abou the remaining $26.5 million. All we have heard is that it is “pledged for research lab upgrades, equipment purchases and other commitments”. Again, we should be told what these commitments are and why they are so important that the reserves should go to them, rather than to cover the short-fall without resorting to the draconian cuts some programs are threatened with.

Third, under the new RCM accounting system, funds generated by tuition go in part to the President’s “strategic fund.” How much is in that fund and why can it not be used to cushion the temporary short-fall?

Fourth, the most recent RCM data from the administration shows that large amounts are held in the colleges under the headings “carry forward” and “strategic funding”. These amounts ($10.6m in CLAS, for example, $3.5m in Engineering… for a total of some $42 million across the colleges) comfortably exceed the cuts being threatened. What are these funds for and why can they not be drawn on?

Last, but perhaps most important because of the amount involved, we should be given information about the category of “restricted expendable” funds listed in the university’s financial statement. The label suggests that these are not wholly unrestricted, as is the $110 million, but also not wholly restricted. The amount for UF alone, excluding Shands and other “component units,” is a whopping $540 million and is found under the informative label “other”. If even a small part of it is available to cover the short-fall, we should be told why it is not being so used.

As before, the administration’s claim that the cuts it is planning to impose are unavoidable rings hollow in the face of its refusal to provide candid answers to questions such as these. We call on it to do so, if it wants its much-vaunted “shared governance” to retain a shred of credibility.

John Biro, UFF-UF President