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Budget fallout: UA to lay off 200, close 3 museums

One of many interactive exhibits at the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center shows a person standing in front of an infrared camera and seeing the image on a large screen. UA President Robert Shelton announced Monday that  Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium will  be closed to school groups and the public later this spring.

One of many interactive exhibits at the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center shows a person standing in front of an infrared camera and seeing the image on a large screen. UA President Robert Shelton announced Monday that Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium will be closed to school groups and the public later this spring.

University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton has placed public outreach on the chopping block and up to 200 people will be laid off to deal with the multimillion-dollar budget blow UA received Saturday from the state Legislature.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed off on $580 million in spending cuts, nearly $142 million of which will be shared by Arizona’s three public universities. UA’s portion is estimated to be about $57 million.

In a memo to students and employees, Shelton said up to 600 jobs will be cut. But 400 of those 600 have already been eliminated, primarily through attrition, said Stephen MacCarthy, vice president for external relations.

The final 200 will have to be achieved through layoffs, “because we don’t have 200 more positions we can absorb through attrition,” said Paul Allvin, UA associate vice president for university communications.

Staff furloughs, which were recently imposed at Arizona State University, will not be necessary at UA this fiscal year. However, to address further cuts to its rapidly declining state allocation in the next fiscal year, all faculty and staff paid with state and locally allocated funds will be required to take five days off without pay after July 1, Shelton said in a memo to UA employees and students Monday. They will have until June 30, 2010, to take the time off.

Details of how furloughs could be taken without affecting classes have not been worked out, said UA spokesman Johnny Cruz.

Shelton also announced in the memo that Flandrau: The UA Science Center and the UA Mineral Museum will be closed to school groups and the public later this spring.

University officials said the closings are not necessarily permanent. Flandrau’s executive director said the center might not reopen until its 2012 debut as part of Tucson Origins, the centerpiece for the Rio Nuevo project.

“We have school groups booked through the end of May and those commitments will be honored, but we are taking no more bookings,” Alexis Faust said. “The reopening may be at the new building downtown. That might make the most sense, but I don’t have an end date for this closure.”

Flandrau is funded through state money and ticket sales. Gate receipts have been dropping for about five years, Faust said.

Shelton also said in the memo the Arizona State Museum and UA Museum of Art will reduce public visiting hours and cancel spring outreach and educational activities. He said 75 percent of UA funding for UApresents will be suspended.

Also, “a significant portion” of the university’s outreach and extension operations will be suspended, and all academic and administrative units will have to make 5 percent across-the-board cuts. It will be the second round of cuts this academic year.

How much money will be saved in each of the moves outlined by Shelton was not released.

Faust said she thought closing Flandrau would net “a couple hundred thousand dollars a year.”

UApresents derives most of its revenue from ticket sales and donations, with the state providing only 20 percent of its current funding said Mario M. Di Vetta, marketing and publicity associate. Shelton’s cut to UApresents means state funding will drop from $600,000 to $150,000 next year, Di Vetta said.

Di Vetta said this season’s show schedule will not be affected. There are 28 shows remaining in the 2009 season of 35 staged shows. The organization is not expecting layoffs – three employees were laid off last June – but UApresents is letting two positions remain open and next year’s season will be cut back.

Those actions will reduce UApresents’ $4.1 million operating budget to $2.3 million next year, a 42 percent drop that Di Vetta said reflects the state funding cut, next year’s reduced programming and savings from attrition.

UApresents has had financial troubles for nearly a decade. After six consecutive years of losses and a deficit that had risen to nearly $1 million, the arts group received a $1.2 million loan from UA in 2006.

Things began to turn around in 2007 and last year. UApresents posted a net gain of $90,370 in 2008, its second straight year-end surplus.

Beth Grindell, director of the Arizona State Museum, said the cuts mean four to eight people being laid off. The museum also will start charging admission and be closed at least two days a week. It is now open every day.

“I don’t yet have the exact number the university will demand of us for our part of the $57 million,” Grindell said. “But I know Dr. Shelton is very concerned to keep with the core mission of educating university students and in keeping with that desire, we are looking at our core mission. On the other hand, we realize we have a duty to the public as the repository of 13,000 years of state history.”

Representatives of the UA Museum of Art and UA’s cooperative extension program could not be reached for comment.

With only five months left in the 2009 fiscal year and four remaining in the academic year, Shelton’s choices to cut $57 million out of UA’s $418.3 million state budget were limited, said Paul Allvin, associate vice president for communications.

Classes cannot be canceled mid-semester and departmental or college mergers take longer than five months, Allvin said.

In his memo, Shelton said those consequences will begin next fall, resulting in increased time to get a degree for UA students. Student leaders have consistently said one of the biggest complaints of UA students is the inability to get the classes they need to graduate. That complaint will only grow louder as UA cuts classes and majors, UA Provost and Executive Vice President Meredith Hay told a Faculty Senate meeting last week.

UA offers about 130 undergraduate degrees, about 120 master’s or professional degrees and about 80 doctoral degrees.

Shelton said the $57 million budget cut hurts more than just UA employees and students.

“The immediate economic loss to the state is at least $2.6 million in lost income tax revenue. Further, every $1 of state funds at the university generates an economic impact of $6.70. UA’s $57 million generates over $380 million in economic impact to southern Arizona and across the state. Clearly, more than just the University of Arizona suffers from a $57 million reduction this year,” Shelton wrote.

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Read Robert Shelton’s memo to faculty and students

BUDGET CUT REACTION

State higher education officials addressed the $580 million in spending cuts authorized Saturday by Gov. Jan Brewer in recent news releases. Nearly $142 million of the cuts will be borne by Arizona’s three public universities.

“The budget passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brewer today is a continuation of the ‘boom and bust cycle’ of funding higher education, which simply does not work. We cannot have the public university system we need to help Arizona dig out of this economic crisis, and to prosper in the 21st century, with this disproportionate slashing of the universities’ budgets.”

- Arizona Board of Regents

“NAU already had planned to chop $10.5 million from its budget. . . . Now we must cut an additional $11-plus million from an already strained budget. Make no mistake: the cut will have a dramatic impact on the university. But also know we remain committed to our core mission, because education is the way up and the way out.”

- NAU President John Haeger

“Our nation is fighting two wars it cannot afford to lose – one against terrorism and a second against an economic recession so deep it may take several years or more to overcome. At the very time our nation is calling its universities to action in this most important of economic battles, Arizona has gone in the opposite direction, the equivalent of grounding the state’s economic air force in the hope that we can fight a high-tech economic war on horseback.”

- ASU President Michael Crow

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At the behest of Senate President Robert Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams, the Arizona Board of Regents last week formed FACT, or the Fiscal Alternative Choices Team – to develop a range of budget balancing options for the Legislature to consider for fiscal year 2010, beyond just budget cuts.

This working group of university economists, and business school faculty and administrators from each of the three state universities will be led by Ted Ferris, a director of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee from 1985-1997. The state experienced a real estate-led recession between 1988-1992, according to Board of Regents President Fred Boice.

Other members of the group are:

Robert Mittelstaedt, dean of the W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

Dennis Hoffman, university economist and associate dean of ASU’s William Seidman Research Institute

Robert Denhardt, director of ASU’s School of Public Affairs

Richard Stanley, ASU senior vice president and university planner

John A. Swain, professor of tax law, James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona

Alberta Charney, senior research economist, UA’s Economic and Business Research Center, Eller College of Management

Marc Chopin, dean of the W.A. Franke College of Business, Northern Arizona University

Ron Gunderson, NAU professor of economics

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