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Expected budget cuts prompt 6-month staff hiring freeze at UNM

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico President Bob Frank announced Wednesday a hiring freeze for staff positions that will last at least six months.

Faculty hiring will also slow, according to the letter sent to all university employees. Frank said the freeze is a response to looming state budget cuts.

“All financial savings associated with this moratorium will be swept centrally to offset anticipated current year budget reductions,” Frank wrote.

After six months, the administration will consider whether the freeze can be lifted or should remain in place. Frank had announced plans for the freeze earlier this month at a Board of Regents meeting.

The moratorium covers main and branch campuses. Health Sciences Center employees are not included in the moratorium.

Frank said only positions that receive a waiver would be filled.

“Please note that while waiver requests will be accepted and considered, they will be limited to those critical to the mission of the university,” Frank said.

Otherwise, the freeze applies to vacant staff positions the university is not currently trying to fill. It’s not clear how much the university hopes to save with the measure.

Frank also said in the letter that he expects faculty hiring to be reduced as well.

UNM employs about 1,250 full-time faculty on main campus and about 3,000 staff members. The main campus budget for the 2017 fiscal year is about $839 million.

Faculty Senate President Pamela Pyle said she understands the president has to examine all possible options to deal with upcoming budget woes.

“The faculty will always be concerned about cuts affecting our ability to deliver all the courses for our students’ success, and we are keenly aware of the vital role staff plays in this mission,” Pyle said.

Danelle Callan, the president of the staff council, said she was waiting to comment until attending Frank’s forum today regarding the state budget and the university’s plans to deal with shortfalls.

Frank has also told his administrators to prepare for a 5 percent budget cut. Gov. Susana Martinez ordered state agencies last month to reduce their spending by at least 5 percent, but that directive did not apply to public schools and universities around the state.

Still, more spending cuts may well be enacted after a special legislative session that Martinez is expected to call later this month to address the state’s shortfall, according to news reports.

Some lawmakers have said steep budget cuts for higher education have been discussed, possibly in excess of 5 percent.