The University of Missouri-Columbia is considering eliminating staff travel budgets in some divisions and delaying filling positions, according to emails obtained by Missourinet as part of a Missouri Sunshine law request.
The news comes as Mizzou will be laying off 20 administrative employees in MU’s Division of Operations, effective July 1. The layoffs are expected to save the university $1.7 million in salary and benefits.
Mizzou spokesman Christian Basi noted this month that the layoffs are due to a decline in state funding and an enrollment drop.
Missourinet reported those layoffs on April 6. The day before that, we filed a records request with the UM System’s custodian of records requesting “any e-mails to or from Mizzou Chancellor Dr. Hank Foley between March 27, 2017 and April 5, 2017, pertaining to Mizzou’s budget and the layoffs of 20 administrative employees in the Division of Operations.”
The University released three emails that were responsive to that request on April 10.
Mizzou Interim Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications Jennifer Hollingshead outlined possible cuts in an April 3 email to Mizzou officials.
The possible cuts, which are proposals at this time, would be for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The e-mail does note that “this is information we will want to post to the web in order to be fully transparent.”
Hollingshead’s email to officials mentions the 20 layoffs in MU’s Division of Operations. Five administrative employees in that division will also retire.
Hollingshead’s email says closing the Discovery, Responsibility and Center residence halls would save about $1 million in staffing, utilities and operating costs.
Basi told Missourinet on Thursday that those three halls are temporarily off-line, adding that two new halls just opened. He notes Mizzou doesn’t know what state revenues will be, and they also don’t have enrollment numbers for the fall.
Hollingshead’s email says MU is considering a proposal to eliminate staff travel budgets and not filling vacant positions in the Student Affairs Division.
That April 3 email from Hollingshead also mentions the Finance Division, which is a smaller department. The email indicates MU is considering a proposal to save $99,000 in that division by eliminating travel to peer conferences and delaying filling of positions.
The record also says Mizzou officials aim to save $60,000, by changing the distribution of Mizzou Magazine in conjunction with Alumni Relations.
The 20 Operations Division administrative employees will be laid off on July 1. Their responsibilities include Mizzou’s physical plant in Columbia and the safety of the Columbia campus. In an interview earlier this month, Basi emphasized to Missourinet that the layoffs will not compromise the university’s safety.
As part of the records request, the University also released an April 4 email from MU Vice Chancellor Gary Ward to MU Chancellor Foley’s staff.
Mr. Ward’s email says that it is his hope “that additional layoffs can be avoided, realizing savings through attrition and retirements.”
Ward also explains that the MU Operations leadership team is “working diligently” to assist those who are being laid off. Ward’s email says that Mizzou is “reaching out to our colleagues in the mid-Missouri business community in hopes that some will find positions elsewhere.”
The 20 laid-off employees will receive transitional benefits – at least four weeks of pay and a maximum of 26 weeks, depending on years of service.
Ward’s April 4 email notes “this permits possible bridging of service and access to insurance.”
Ward also writes that “We will continue to hire students, allowing invaluable experiential-learning opportunities, while furthering the academic mission of Mizzou. It is important for everyone to remember that without our students, there would not be a University of Missouri.”
Basi told Missourinet earlier this month that total enrollment in the fall of 2016 was 33,266, with 4,772 freshmen. In the fall of 2015, total enrollment was 35,448, with 6,191 freshmen.
The “Columbia Daily Tribune” has reported that Gov. Eric Greitens has restricted $31.4 million from the state’s current fiscal year budget for the university.