Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where have all the flowers gone? Budget cuts reduce annual plantings

By Mary Jo Frank
Public Affairs

Budget pruning efforts will result in fewer blooms on the Ann Arbor campus this fall and next spring and summer.

Forestry Facts

• U-M maintains approximately 7,200 ornamental, shade and evergreen trees in areas supported by the general fund.

• In fiscal year 2003, U-M budgeted $60,000 for general fund tree replacement. Due to budget pressures, the amount allocated for tree replacement was reduced to $45,000 in fiscal year 2008, further reduced to $20,000 in 2009 and eliminated in fiscal year 2010. The decision to eliminate the program was based on plans to preserve core services and suspend programs that could be easily brought back.

• U-M lost 183 trees in FY 2009 and 162 trees in FY 2008 due to insects and disease, weather conditions, mechanical damage and old age.

• Tree losses from disease and natural senescence have been most numerous on Central Campus this year. Grounds Services replaced 71 trees in FY 2008 and 64 trees in FY 2009 with general funds. No trees were planted in spring 2009.

The number of annuals — everything from marigolds and petunias to snapdragons — will be reduced on parts of the campus supported by the general fund budget.

The reduction of 12,000 square feet of annual plantings and bulbs — primarily from Central Campus, especially Ingalls Mall and the Diag — will save some $152,000 per year, reports John Lawter, associate director of Plant Building and Grounds Services.

“This was a very tough decision. We had to weigh the costs and benefits of keeping the campus clean and well maintained against the aesthetic appeal of showy flower displays,” Lawter says.

Most of the perennials, such as hostas and grasses, will stay, although some plant beds will be removed. Also, the colorful beds and pots of showy flowers that long have been a campus hallmark are still an option for self-supporting auxiliary units such as the U-M Health System, Intercollegiate Athletics, and Student Housing and Student Unions.

To save money, U-M also has put a hold on its tree replacement program, increased its no-mow program, and has cut back on turf renovation and irrigation crew staffing.

The no-mow program allows remote lawn areas to revert to prairie where it least affects appearances. In addition to saving labor, this program reduces the polluting side effects of mowing, and increases wildlife habitat. All of these areas currently are located on North Campus.

All told, these reductions, along with the cut in flowering annuals, equal $280,000.

“We’ll continue to maintain landscaping elements and infrastructure that are costly to replace once lost, such as pavements, lawns, irrigation systems, and our existing trees and shrubs. Our goal is to keep the campus clean and green until such time as we can bring the color back,” Lawter says.

The Ann Arbor campus has 14,005 trees, more than 275 acres of turf and 96 acres of sidewalks, steps and plazas.

Plant Building and Grounds Services has no plans to reduce its full-time staff. All the cuts mentioned will result in reduced temporary seasonal staffing. This summer, Plant Building and Grounds Services hired 43 temporary staff, 17 fewer than in the past.