USF to trim 450 positions over budget cuts

TAMPA — The University of South Florida will cope with a $35.6-million loss in state funding by eliminating 450 staff and nontenured faculty positions, scaling back campus maintenance and some student services, and shutting down many academic buildings at night, administrators announced Wednesday.

Additional cuts and changes are likely in coming months, as the state's economy continues to sour.

"What we're doing today is the first step," warned provost Ralph Wilcox. "But for now, we know that we will have 45,000 students again this fall, with $35.6-million less in our budget."

USF will not freeze or eliminate degree programs or cut freshman enrollment as other state institutions plan to do this fall. And the positions of tenured and tenure-track faculty members are safe under the plan approved by USF trustees.

But students will nonetheless feel the impact of lost nontenured faculty and support staff members.

"The number of students in classes will continue to increase; the array of classes offered and the number of sections offered will continue to decrease," said USF president Judy Genshaft.

Student body president Greg Morgan, 22, said administrators need to make sure the larger classes and reduced course sections don't lead to lower graduation rates.

"We need to support students toward graduation," he said.

In all, USF is reducing its annual budget by 15 percent, or $50-million. The $35.6-million is the amount lawmakers trimmed from USF's state funding starting in July 2007.

Administrators are holding back the remaining $14.4-million because they anticipate the governor and lawmakers — facing more revenue shortfalls — will have to further cut the state's $66.2-billion budget.

Genshaft outlined the cost-cutting measures during a series of meetings Wednesday with reporters, faculty members, staff members and student leaders.

"I hope a 15 percent cut is enough," Genshaft said repeatedly. "I hope it's enough."

All but 70 of the 450 positions to be cut are empty — part of cost-saving measures that USF began several months ago.

Those facing layoffs are mostly staffers in areas ranging from custodial services to colleges like education and liberal arts and sciences.

Genshaft and her vice presidents are declining any salary increase as part of the plan.

The university will essentially shut down for three days in December, when all employees will be forced to use three of their personal leave days. Many administrative and classroom buildings will be locked daily between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m., reducing utility and security costs.

Also, USF will use money in reserve to fill 170 vacant teaching positions for fall with adjuncts and nontenured visiting instructors.

"We have to teach classes in the fall, and we have an obligation to the students here," Wilcox said.

USF security will not be cut, and Genshaft is expanding USF's program for emergency financial aid and counseling.

"I don't want students to drop out because they couldn't afford gasoline or couldn't afford to pay for school," she said.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

>>Fast facts

Each campus loses

The $35.6-million in budget cuts will affect USF Health, the main campus and three branch campuses:

USF Tampa: $23.3-million.

USF Health: $6.7-million.

USF St. Petersburg:

$3-million.

USF Sarasota-Manatee: $1.53-million.

USF Polytechnic

(Lakeland): $1-million.

USF to trim 450 positions over budget cuts 05/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 23, 2008 2:58pm]

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