The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences had a staff meeting Tuesday to talk about the tight budget. Reporters weren’t allowed to attend. But those who did are saying the message seemed to be that even more cuts were necessary soon than previously understood.
A note from an anonymous writer, its contents generally confirmed by another attendee, said:
Yesterday at the UAMS Town Hall meeting, Dr. Stephanie Gardner and other leaders shared the information that UAMS has budgeted a $39 million deficit, but is currently on track to have a $72 million deficit this fiscal year. They have committed to the UA President that the institution will finish with a $39 million deficit this budget year (so somehow cutting $33 million in the coming 6 months) and no deficit next year. So, basically cutting $72 million from the current operation by next July. [Budget years run July 1 through June 30.]
They didn’t say this, but the ONLY way that can happen is with major layoffs. They said “we don’t know how this will happen, we are working on it now.” But, if the goal is to cut $33 million in 6 months, then the firings are going to have to start soon.
I asked for comment from UAMS. Vice Chancellor Leslie Taylor responded:
The leadership team has committed to [UA System president Donald] Dr. Bobbitt that we will not exceed the $39 million deficit we projected in our budget approved by the Board of Trustees for Fiscal Year 2018 [which ends June 30]. Here’s what Dr. Gardner said in yesterday’s meeting. This is taken from her remarks:
1. We need to recognize the fact that Academic Health Center’s across the country are facing many of the same challenges.
2. We can’t sacrifice our mission of improving the health and healthcare of Arkansans.
3. But we also have to recognize that we have an operational model that isn’t sustainable.
4. Everything is on the table….we need to look at every aspect of the services and programs we are offering and determine what is critical and what is sustainable.
5. We can’t just cut out way out of this…we have to continue to invest in the areas that are vital to our future.
6. Our best outcome will certainly come about from a lot of creative minds providing ideas and being willing to help find solutions.
I spoke with her a few minutes ago about your email and she stressed that this deficit represents a small percentage of our overall $1.4 billion budget. We are exploring all options to reduce the deficit including increasing clinical productivity, improving efficiency of operations across all areas of our university and renegotiating or terminating contracts. As she said in her remarks in No. 5 above, we can’t just cut our way out of this. If we do that we will fail. We have to invest in the future of UAMS.
UAMS employs more than 10,000 people and has operations in 73 of the state’s 75 counties. We reported earlier on restrictions on filling vacancies and suspension of some pay raises as first steps in response to news that the budget was to be balanced by drawing on reserve money.