Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, January 11, 2010

Staff members voice their budget suggestions

University employees are suggesting everything from sharing best practices to sharing staff as ways to save money as U-M begins trimming $100 million from recurring costs over the next three years.

Those were just two of the many suggestions generated during a “Voices of the Staff” budget town hall forum Friday afternoon at the Michigan League. About 50 staff members participated.

The suggestions were developed during small-group discussions following a budget presentation by Phil Hanlon, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs. He explained why 2009 was a “nightmare year” in higher education across the nation and why U-M is in a much stronger financial position than most of universities.

He said the “Michigan model” of conservative endowment spending, energy conservation, health insurance savings and strategic cost reductions have put U-M “in a better place right now than most other universities.”

Hanlon said declining state revenues will make it likely that U-M will continue to receive less state funding for at least the next two years. This makes it critical that the university continue to focus on efficiencies and cost cutting.

He told those at the town hall that, with their help, he was confident the university would be able to find $100 million in savings without the layoffs that have come at other universities.

After Hanlon’s presentation, his audience spent time working in small groups to talk about what U-M employees could do to help. Suggestions included:

• Establish and communicate clear priorities.

• Share “best practices” for various processes and functions to improve overall performance.

• Offer incentives for cost-cutting ideas that work.

• Offer additional retirement incentives.

• Hire specialized staff to serve more than one unit so those special skills are used efficiently.

• Break down financial information in more personalized terms so individual employees can better understand their roles in cost cutting.

• Find ways to encourage employees to make decisions as if U-M were its own small business.

All of the ideas will be compiled and posted on the Voices of Staff Web site. Voices of the Staff is a volunteer-based initiative that provides a platform for helping define issues of importance to university staff members.