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UWPlatteville announces first round of cuts
Currently vacant positions wont be filled
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UW–Platteville is cutting $3.7 million from its 2015–16 budget and increasing revenues by $1.5 million to address the university’s existing structural deficit and expected state aid cuts in the state’s 2015–17 budget.

The cuts announced Wednesday are the first of three phases of funding changes. They include offers of early retirement for eligible UW–Platteville employees 55 or older who have worked at UW–Platteville at least five years as of June 30.

The revenue increases include a $600-per-student increase in Tri-State Initiative tuition, which is estimated to raise $900,000.

The reality of the budget cuts wasn’t surprising given what Chancellor Dennis Shields described as “choices made by the Legislature a few years ago.” The size of the cuts based on reductions in state UW System aid are estimated at $5 million based on previous formulas for UW System aid reductions, though Shields said “how much the budget cut will be is still kind of up in the air.”

About $3 million in carryover funds from UW–Platteville’s 2014–15 budget will be used as one-time funding for some programs receiving budget cuts, to provide what Shields called a “glide path.”

“My goal is to get us to the point over the next couple of years that we have more funding, that we have more stable things, that we create commitments from the Legislature, and then build from there,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

According to UW–Platteville documents, most of the position cuts are in positions that haven’t been filled — 23 positions, including a compliance officer position, the Karrmann Library director position, and the athletic department’s sports information director position. Another 31 positions are being converted into academic staff positions or to another funding source.

The first phase “protects almost all positions that are currently filled,” said Shields. “We’ve protected academic programs for the most part. … People will wonder why [a certain function] is not being done anymore; well, it’s because a position wasn’t filled.”

The Campus Read program is being eliminated. Funding for the Platteville Area Industrial Development Corp. is also being eliminated. The new Driftless Center, to study Southwest Wisconsin, is being suspended.

The Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement is having tuition-based funding reduced, although one-time funds are being used while a transition plan for financial self-sufficiency is being created. The Heartland Festival is being evaluated for self-funding.

The second round of cuts will be determined by mid-March, and the third round will be completed by the end of the 2016–17 academic year, during the creation of the 2017–19 state budget.

The early retirement incentive includes either a one-time payment of half the employee’s current salary or a payment to eliminate the “age reduction factor” that usually applies to Wisconsin Retirement System employees who retire early. Tenured faculty will also receive “an additional incentive,” according to UW–Platteville documents.

The early retirement program is estimated to save more than $700,000 per year. UW–Platteville has 226 employees eligible for the program, but all early retirements must be approved by the chancellor.

“You have some flexibility with positions you vacate,” said Shields. “The downside is you may lose some very talented people.”

Among other uncertainties heading into the 2015–16 budget year is the size of the 2014–15 budget carryover and 2015–16 enrollment.

“The really difficult choices you’ve got to be more thoughtful of and engage your governance groups,” said Shields.

Athletic department cuts include travel budgets, eliminating graduate assistants, and possibly higher participation fees for student–athletes.