Departments to cut costs

Braving the gravest financial straits in recent memory, planning for next year’s budget has officially begun.

In a memo to all deans, directors and department heads Friday, Provost Peter Salovey and Vice President for Finance and Business Operations Shauna King laid out the cost-cutting measures that will bear on managers as they begin planning their budgets for the 2010 fiscal year. For years, Yale was trying to keep up with the growth of available funds by finding new projects to spend them on. But now the University is entering the budget-planning season with a markedly bleaker spirit.

Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle, who has worked at Yale for over three decades, said the budget challenges in the coming year — or years — are unlike anything he has ever seen before.

“This is a unique situation in terms of a global meltdown that has affected Yale and every other institution worldwide,” he said last week. “This is very stressful.”

The budget memo contained no surprises. But by formally kicking off the planning season, it ended a waiting game that had left department managers across the University anxious and confused about the looming budget cuts.

It is now clear what they will have to do. But the hard part still remains: figuring out how they will go about doing it.

The memo summed up the cost-cutting measures that University President Richard Levin announced in a letter to the Yale community last week, following the February meeting of the Yale Corporation.

Spending on non-faculty staff salaries will be cut 7.5 percent, up from the 5 percent announced in December. The reductions can be partly achieved through leaving open positions vacant, but up to 300 layoffs are seen as inevitable. Non-personnel spending will also be cut 7.5 percent. Raises for employees making less than $75,000 will be capped at 2 percent, and salaries above $75,000 will be frozen.

As departments start to make those cuts, Salovey and King instructed managers to lean on restricted endowment funds. Yale’s $17 billion endowment is comprised of some 8,000 separate funds, almost three-quarters of which are earmarked for a specific purpose, such as scholarships or special programs. In order to free up University-wide general funds, managers are supposed to use the restricted endowments available to their departments as much as possible.

The memo also urged managers to be thrifty throughout the rest of the 2009 fiscal year, which ends in June. Salovey and King said managers should try to save their reserves — unspent money from previous years — for the future, given the economic uncertainty.

“We wish we could avoid these actions, and we understand that meeting the revised budgetary targets will be challenging,” the memo said. “We believe that with your help we can and will manage our way through this downturn, preserve the University’s great strengths, and seize the most important opportunities for the future.”

As managers begin to contemplate cuts, they will have to do so on a tighter time frame than usual. The memo released Friday is usually sent around Christmas, but it was delayed this year because the administration wanted more time to see how the economic crisis would unfold.

Starting in January to plan for a budget that takes effect in July is a lengthy timetable anyway, Salovey said. But more importantly, the memo had been postponed in the hopes that it would not have to be revised later. Indeed, at the Corporation meeting last month, the University’s highest governing body deepened the cuts that were originally planned in December.

The next step is for department heads to meet with deputy provosts and senior business operations administrators to go over their budgets and find places to cut. As managers start to develop their budget proposals, they will receive the numerical target for how much money they should request later this month, Salovey said.

Because of the uncertainty and the delay, the final budget proposal, usually prepared in April, will not be ready this year until May. Typically, the proposal is presented to the Corporation in April and the final budget is approved in June. But this year the Corporation will both consider the proposal and make its final approval in June.

Comments

  • Louisa R

    There are no talks about cuts in spending on faculty. Why?