Proposed Budget Could Eliminate 750 UT Jobs

NASHVILLE — Cutting $50.6 million from the University of Tennessee’s budget will result in the loss of 750 jobs, a Legislative committee was told Thursday.

Acting UT President Eli Fly told the House Finance Committee that approximately 300 UT employees would have to be laid off and 450 funded but unfilled positions eliminated if the no new taxes or DOGS budget is enacted. Colleges could be eliminated and enrollment trimmed in the 2003-04 school year.

The Downsizing On-going Governmental Services budget would cut state spending by nearly $1 billion.

“I’ve been at the University of Tennessee for 41 years, and this has to be one of the saddest days in my long tenure,” Fly said. “Who would have ever thought that the General Assembly would have come to the point where a budget that reduced funding for UT by 12.5 percent was even being considered?”

UT in Knoxville would absorb more than one-third — $17.3 million — of the proposed $50.6 million in cuts. Job losses at the flagship university also are estimated at about one-third of the statewide total and would include full-time, part-time and student positions.

Fifty people at Knoxville would lose their jobs. About 190 slots are vacant but these include faculty positions that are needed to teach students, Fly said.

While the communities where UT has campuses would be most directly affected, Fly said the proposed cuts would be felt statewide because public service and agricultural extension programs operate in all 95 counties.

Funding to agricultural extension and experiment station programs would be reduced by $5.6 million and 122 jobs, of which 64 are filled. The College of Veterinary Medicine budget would lose $1.4 million but would have no job losses.

The Institute for Public Service and its agencies that assist local governments would receive no state funding — a cut of $7.3 million and 62 filled and 19 unfilled positions. WUOT, the public radio station in Knoxville licensed to UT more than 50 years ago, would cease to exist as a university entity after June 30.

Fly said health science programs administered by UT’s Memphis campus would see cuts of nearly $11 million, and job losses would total 179, including 61 currently filled positions.

Reductions at UT-Chattanooga include $4.1 million and 68 positions, with 39 employees losing their jobs. At UT-Martin the numbers are $2.8 million and 48 jobs (15 filled), including graduate student jobs. The UT Space Institute in Tullahoma would be cut nearly $900,000 and lose 12 positions — five currently filled.

Fly said maintaining quality of instruction has been foremost in all discussion of proposed cuts, but he pointed out some reductions cannot be made immediately.

“One example is the elimination of a college or department. It is a very difficult and time consuming process to dismiss tenured faculty, so any such action taken now would not produce dollar savings until the 2003-04 academic year,” he said.

The university also has “a moral obligation with students to find alternatives for them before we simply shut down a program with little notice,” he said. UT will honor letters of admission sent to students who plan to enroll this fall, but enrollment reductions are likely if the no new taxes budget is passed, Fly said.