Cuts reduce debt estimate

While Yale managed to cut its projected deficit for its 2004-2005 operating budget in half, the University is still carrying a deficit of $15 million, Yale officials said.

University Provost Susan Hockfield first announced a projected deficit of $30 million last October, citing as the cause endowment revenue growing less quickly than expenditures. In response, Yale implemented a series of moves to cut costs and increase efficiency, including controversial layoffs.

“I expect the deficit will be gone next year,” Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper said Thursday. “That’s our commitment, that’s our goal.”

A number of factors caused the University to have higher costs last year than in the past, Pepper said. The University faced costs for capital replacement, maintenance and increased student aid. Energy costs were also much higher than Yale expected even a few months ago, he said, and the University had to find additional savings to offset the increase.

Such a deficit is not unusual for a university, especially over the last few years, said Damon Manetta, the public affairs manager of the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Colleges are looking for “long term balance” between their endowment returns and spending, he said.

Yale will seek to close the gap by implementing “ongoing systemic savings,” including improving the University’s procurement process, reducing energy costs and other moves to increase efficiency, Pepper said. He said there has been “great support” from students as part of this effort, including current Yale College Council President Andrew Cedar, who helped lead the drive to reduce energy usage while serving as YCC treasurer last year.

Pepper said the cost reductions will not include across-the-board reductions in personnel similar to those that occurred last term, when 76 clerical, technical, managerial and professional employees were let go. But he said some jobs may be cut to reduce inefficiencies or consolidate positions.

“Our aim is to anticipate these and find other places in the University where they can go,” Pepper said.

He said the “overwhelming majority” of workers whose jobs are cut will be able to find other positions at Yale.

About half of the savings the University achieved over the past year came from changes in staffing, including both not filling some positions and the job cuts, Pepper said.

At the time of last year’s layoffs, Yale’s unions described the move as unjust and said the cuts were unnecessary. For Yale to claim it has a deficit when it has such a large endowment is like a person refusing to go into his savings to pay a bill, Local 35 President Bob Proto said Thursday.

“I find it difficult to believe there’s a true deficit,” Proto said.

But he said the unions want to be “upfront” in the effort to find savings, in order to show Yale it should use grow its own workforce instead of outsourcing.

This year Yale will carry the deficit against its cash reserves, Hockfield said. She said no current projects will be affected, but the University will lose some flexibility. The use of the cash reserves should not have a material effect, Pepper said.

“What is material is getting our house in order so we don’t run continued deficits,” Pepper said.

Yale is still working on its budget for the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

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