June 28, 2017
Dear UT Faculty and Staff,
During my two years as president of UT Austin, I have met with many faculty members, staff members, students and others within the university community to discuss how we can best utilize our financial resources. The challenge is to be good stewards of public dollars while supporting our core missions and our people. We must constantly strive for balance, which requires us to invest and to make difficult choices on priorities.
I am writing you today to announce two budget decisions — the implementation of a $20 million recurring budget reduction and the identification of funds for merit-based salary increases for faculty and staff.
To continue recruiting and retaining the faculty and staff members who are at the heart of the university, we must invest in them. A portion of the savings from the $20 million reduction will be used for merit-based salary increases in 2017-18. Additionally, raises will also be funded by individual departments and administrative units, which will recommend how they are distributed. It is crucial that we commit to recognizing the excellence of the people who make UT Austin a university of the first class.
In addition, we also must operate more strategically as we grapple with ongoing budget challenges facing higher education. When the Texas Legislature approved the two-year state budget last month, the base funding for UT Austin’s core budget was reduced by about $32 million per year. The Legislature provided the university with one-time funding, for this upcoming biennium only, to assist in the short term, but the base funding in the future remains uncertain.
To address the new biennial budget, we will need to cut $20 million in spending — approximately 2% of UT Austin’s core budget. Each academic and administrative unit will be engaged in decision-making throughout this process. Deans, vice presidents and directors will be asked to prioritize essential functions and make choices in the coming months. The one-time funding provided by the Legislature will aid in the transition period for the budget reductions.
Even if UT Austin’s base funding had remained flat, inflation and increases in operating costs would have necessitated decreases in other areas.
There are tough decisions to make, but we will make them thoughtfully and with the best interests of the university and our community in mind. The effects of change will impact us all, and we will need to work hard to collaborate and communicate across the Forty Acres. We’re in this together.
The campus, college and school leadership will provide further updates to all of you in the weeks ahead.
Gregory L. Fenves