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Chancellor's Blog: Joint Committee on Finance budget action update

| Chancellor James Schmidt

Last Friday the State Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance approved UW System funding for the 2015-17 state budget and also voted to make significant changes to tenure and shared governance. 

Before I share specifics of the finance committee's vote, I want to assure you that I will continue to champion tenure and shared governance at UW-Eau Claire. Tenure and shared governance are bedrock principles of this institution — principles that I highly value as your chancellor.

As President Ray Cross and Regent Vice President Regina Millner made clear in their joint statement Friday, UW System and the Board of Regents remain committed to tenure and shared governance and will move to incorporate tenure into Board of Regents policies immediately. In a meeting Monday morning with UW-Eau Claire University Senate leaders, I pledged that I will work with UW System and regents to ensure tenure and shared governance are preserved. I will be making the same pledge to student leaders and Classified Staff Council. 

Now, on to some specifics of the finance committee budget vote. 

The committee reduced Governor Scott Walker's proposed $300 million reduction to $250 million and also approved a number of flexibilities that will provide opportunities for additional savings. 

The committee also included funding for fringe benefit cost increases and modified current law to allow the Board of Regents to use base funds for merit pay increases. 

We appreciate the efforts by our local legislators to reduce the governor's proposed budget cut and to provide limited operational and building project flexibilities.  

Still, the overall funding reduction is equal to the deepest cuts in UW System history and is made even more difficult because of the additional two-year tuition freeze approved by the committee. 

Details of the committee's vote are still being reviewed, so it will take some time to fully understand how they will impact UW-Eau Claire. See a summary of the Joint Finance Committee's actions on Friday

Actions taken Friday will be included in the budget the finance committee forwards to the full legislature for consideration, then to Governor Walker for his review and vetoes. It likely will be several weeks before the budget is finalized. 

In the meantime, we will continue our preparations to meet budget reductions. 

Colleagues who have been offered the voluntary separation incentive have until June 5 to decide whether to accept, and then another week to rescind if they so choose. We should know around June 12 how much savings will be realized through the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program.  

We are in the process of formulating implementation teams for the Student Service One-Stop Center; Academic Master Plan; Advising and Student Success; Administrative Service Center; Administrative and Academic Department Associates Reorganization; and Reimagine EDI. In addition, in the coming weeks we will make a call for volunteers to serve on a Facilities Restructuring implementation team. 

While the actions by the finance committee may help reduce our budget cut, it is important that we remain focused on fundamentally changing how we operate in order to minimize the impact as best we can on the student experience. 

We must make difficult but necessary decisions to ensure that UW-Eau Claire continues to provide a high-quality, high-impact education to current and future Blugolds. 

I look forward to continuing our work to meet these challenges together.

Read additional blog posts by UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt.