Thursday, April 17, 2008

Resolution on University Budget Priorities

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 965, debated and adopted the following Resolution on University Budget Priorities during the regular monthly meeting on April 17, 2008. Copies have been transmitted to UA administrators, the Board of Trustees, local news media, and the membership for further consideration in making funding decisions for 2008-2009 and during the preparation of the budget to be submitted for the next biennium.

Resolution on University Budget Priorities

WHEREAS, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees on March 28, 2008, approved a five percent increase in student tuition, said by Chancellor John White to be primarily needed to pay for higher operating expenses and to provide competitive faculty salaries, and an additional fee dedicated specifically to campus facilities needs, including major projects and deferred maintenance for such things as roofs, elevators, fire safety equipment and code compliance; and

WHEREAS, Chancellor-designate David Gearhart has said of his priorities, “Faculty and staff salaries must be at the top of our list if we are to remain competitive in the years ahead. It may be fair to conclude that we have built the university on the backs of our faculty and staff. Salaries run anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent below the market;” and

WHEREAS, the University of Arkansas, already underfunded by $40 million annually, is likely to face a significant cut of approximately $4.7 million in state funding in the 2008-2009 fiscal year based on state revenue figures released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and such a cut would pose a potential threat to some university programs and is likely to significantly curb or eliminate the University's ability to meet its obligation for cost-of-living salary increases to faculty and staff in the coming year; and

WHEREAS, the recently completed study of "space utilization" of classroom space on campus found that of the nearly 400 classroom spaces available on campus, the campus-wide utilization rate is less than 20%, suggesting that the current classroom space could easily accommodate enrollment of 40,000 students, and a Facilities Management report to the Faculty Senate in March determined that our peer institutions do not build or expand physical space until the average is 60-70% space utilization; and

WHEREAS, in 1997, the University of Arkansas carried approximately $32 million in bonded indebtedness, with payments of about $7 million a year, the massive building program on campus in recent years led to $312 million in bonded indebtedness in 2007, with payments of approximately $36 million a year out of the University’s budget; and

WHEREAS, University administrative officers are considering further increasing student tuition and bonded indebtedness by an additional $60 million plus interest for 30 years to purchase unneeded buildings and property owned by the Fayetteville School District;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Local 965 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, representing University of Arkansas faculty and staff, requests that the University devote the limited state revenues and student tuition and fee income to meeting the critical needs of the institution, including adequate funding for existing academic programs and competitive faculty and staff salaries, instead of misdirecting scarce financial resources to acquire additional real estate and buildings for which no need has been nor can be demonstrated.

Approved this 17th day of April, 2008.

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