LINCOLN — If history is any guide, the University of Nebraska system will be looking at eliminating more than 300 jobs to handle the budget cuts Gov. Dave Heineman has proposed.
That was the assessment today from NU President J.B. Milliken during testimony at the special session of the Nebraska Legislature. Lawmakers must cut the state budget in response to recession-ravaged tax receipts.
Last year, Milliken said, the NU system eliminated 103 mostly vacant jobs and saved $8.5 million.
This year, under the governor's proposal, the university system would have to cut $9 million in spending. An additional $17 million would be cut from the 2010-11 university budget.
While the cuts won't all involve personnel and while it is too early to be specific, Milliken said that personnel reductions might be similar to last year, which means more than 100 positions could be eliminated in the current fiscal year and “double that” in 2010-11.
“It's hard for me to paint a picture in which a 5-percent reduction doesn't have an impact on the university, and a significant one,” he told members of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
He also told them the budget cuts this year likely will have a bigger effect on the Omaha and Kearney campuses of NU because both have higher increases in faculty salaries to fund.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is looking at funding a 3.8-percent pay raise for faculty over the next two years, which was recently granted by the State Commission on Industrial Relations. That ruling is being appealed.
Because of the “higher obligation” to salary, UNO would have fewer options in taking budget cuts, Milliken said.
The Legislature was called into special session to close a $334 million gap between expected tax receipts and spending previously budgeted by the state over the next two years.
Heineman has proposed a variety of cuts. Most state agencies are being asked to reduce spending by 2.5 percent this year and 5 percent in 2010-11. For higher education, the proposed reductions are 1.8 percent this year and 3.4 percent next year so university spending does not fall below 2009 levels, which would create a problem with the federal stimulus program.
Milliken used 5 percent as the expected cut for NU, officials said, because after two years, the accumulated cuts in the university’s budget would be 5.2 percent.