The University of Montana is seeking to make up an estimated $10 million to $12 million in the 2017 fiscal year, a UM official said Monday.

Last month, UM President Royce Engstrom held a "budget forum" to announce the university would cut 201 positions to align its expenses with revenues. He did not provide financial figures in his address, and a member of his Cabinet later said an estimate of the "structural budget situation" was unavailable.

This week, vice president of finance Mike Reid said the proposed cuts aim to address a $10 million to $12 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, a result of increased expenses, declining enrollment, and other factors.

He said UM is short some $3 million this fall, and it will make up the amount through attrition, or by leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Schools and colleges are submitting their plans for cuts this week.

At the same time, some members of the Faculty Senate are questioning the data and information the president used to target specific programs, and some are also calling for more transparency from leadership.

"The problem is that there are figures, and there are figures. And we don't know what figures they're using," said Liz Ametsbichler, a faculty senator and professor in modern and classical language and literature.

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The need to make up $10 million to $12 million comes from several main factors, and it is based on flat enrollment in fall 2016, not a continued drop.

First, UM needs to make up the $3.2 million in "one time only" funds it used to shore up the budget this year, Reid said. That was money Student Affairs set aside for building projects and emergencies from its auxiliary businesses.

Then, benefit changes that didn't take effect this school year will cost an additional $2.8 million in the coming year, Reid said.

Additionally, a decrease in enrollment revenue means UM needs another $3 million, he said. In rough figures, he said, each 1 percent drop in enrollment results in a $1 million budget hit to UM.

In general, personnel and benefits account for 80 percent of UM's expenses, Reid said. UM is shorting facilities and utilities along with other expenses because more and more dollars are going to personnel, he said.

"That's been growing every year, and it's just not sustainable," he said.

Reid said it isn't certain that cutting the 52 faculty positions and 149 other jobs, including graduate assistants and staff, will make up for the entire shortage because many factors are in play.

"It's probably premature to say, but the expectation is that it will," Reid said.

He said cuts would be effective July 1 and adhere to union contracts.

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Some faculty, albeit not all, are questioning the president's rationale for cutting and are calling on UM's top leaders to share more information as they make critical decisions.

"They could start by being more open and transparent about this whole process," said Abhishek Chatterjee, a faculty senator.

"That would help because if it is true that they want to maintain the flagship status of this university, and its prestige, then it doesn't help to make decisions by themselves, like the president and his cabinet."

Chatterjee, in political science, said some of the reasoning behind the proposed cuts doesn't make sense. In general, he said, the argument is that UM added positions as enrollment grew, and now, it needs to make cuts to "right size" the campus.

However, political science did not add faculty positions during the enrollment boom, he said. Instead, he said, the same number of faculty taught a growing number of students.

"Our faculty point out that, look, when our enrollments went up, you didn't give us extra lines. You're essentially punishing us for having higher enrollments in 2009. And that's the case with a lot of different departments," Chatterjee said.

He said the situation is exacerbated by not having more detailed budget information, and he believes UM leadership could have presented a more sound plan had the president consulted deans.

Having spoken with the dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences, Chatterjee said he does not anticipate any program cuts in the college, including programs the president mentioned.

Ametsbichler said she simply doesn't see extra staff on campus, in particular in the Lommasson Center, which houses the registrar's office and human resources.

"I see staff in the Lommasson Center totally overwhelmed, unable to keep up with the day-to-day," Ametsbichler said.

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In his address, the president said the cuts would bring UM more in line with faculty and staffing ratios at other universities of a similar size. During the years enrollment increased, he said, UM added 400 faculty and other positions, and it grew "personnel heavy."

"We are not a business, but we do need to operate on sound business principles, and that requires that expenses align with revenues," Engstrom said at the time.

In his forum, the president also called for comment, and leaders of the faculty, staff and Associated Students of the University of Montana will be presenting him feedback. 

This week, Mary-Ann Bowman said she believes the process is unfolding as it should. The faculty senator said once the president has collected more data, he will be able to offer a more detailed plan.

"I think the reason we haven't heard specifics is because he's still gathering information, including from staff, students, and faculty, which is appropriate," Bowman said.

Bowman, in sociology, also said she appreciates the opportunity to offer input. The president made it clear changes are needed, she said, and "the rest of the story" will emerge once he has collected more information.

"I actually have a lot of confidence that he will take those comments into consideration as he and his cabinet formulate what the next steps are," Bowman said.

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