After paying out wages, UMass forced to cut $10.9M from budget midyear

State legislature omits expected funds from budget

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) must cut nearly $11 million from its budget midyear because the state passed a budget bill last week that excludes anticipated funding.

The five-campus system faces a shortfall of $10.9 million in already-paid collectively bargained retroactive raises for UMass faculty and staff.

In Massachusetts, staff contracts are negotiated between unions and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, but UMass must rely on the Legislature to fund the contracts.

President Martin Meehan is to meet with the chancellors on Monday to discuss how each campus will make up the shortfall, which totals about $5 million at the flagship Amherst campus. The system will "take whatever appropriate action we need to take," Meehan says.

"It's always difficult when you get a cut that you didn't anticipate, particularly during the middle of the academic year," Meehan says.

After conversations with legislators left him confident UMass would receive the funding, Meheen agreed to pay the retroactive wages to 6,500 staff and faculty members, his predecessor had denied. The seven unions that represent those workers had negotiated three-year contracts.

While the state House included the money in its version of the budget bill, the Senate did not, and it did not make it into the final version.

"I'm puzzled and I'm disappointed," Meehan says. "I'm not going to guess what happened. All I know is we have a crisis at the University of Massachusetts in dealing with $11 million in cuts." 

Some of the representatives and senators say passing the funding was contingent on UMass returning student fees (Young, State House News Service/WBUR, 10/29).

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