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Responses to Budget Reduction Suggestions

April 1, 2009

The Chancellor received many suggestions through the budget suggestion box on the website. Some of these were helpful and are being explored. The following are Chancellor Perlman's responses to these suggestions.

Eliminate internal mass mailings.
  • Response: This was the most common complaint received, but these are unit decisions Units that send mailings have determined that the benefits exceed the costs. We are, however, encouraging units to evaluate these mailings in light of budget and sustainability considerations.
Put Scarlet online
  • Response: We use the paper copies of the Scarlet for distribution to multiple audiences in addition to faculty and staff on campus, including alumni groups, potential donors, and external constituents. We think that justifies the cost of printing and the costs of the additional copies for internal distribution is minimal. In fact, the advertising revenues pay for most of the costs of producing the Scarlet. But we will consider ways to reduce costs.
No salary increases
  • Response: It is premature to make any decision with respect to salary increases. This decision cannot be made by the UNL administration alone. It is one option that may be considered depending on how much of a reduction is required.
Fix the thermostats in buildings so that it is not too hot or cold
  • Response: Heating and air conditioning of UNL's buildings was reduced in 2006. At that time, building air handlers were turned off on nights and weekends for all campus buildings unless there were programmatic reasons not to do so (e.g. animal care facilities, computer rooms, evening classes, weekend operations). In 2008, UNL installed utility metering of all major campus buildings. These individual building reports are identifying new opportunities for reducing utility operations on nights and weekends.
  • Hot/cold calls are responded to by Facilities employees; they usually discover the thermostat is working correctly but the heating/cooling system for the building, (often very old) is the source of the problem. Correction of this problem, while desirable, can require expenditures in excess of $1 million. These projects are being funded as quickly as possible given the University's and State's budget.
Go to 4-day workweek. Put MWF classes on TTh-type schedule
  • Response: This is impractical for research, classroom needs, and the expectations of a residential campus.
Eliminate pay stub advice
  • Response: This is a current University-wide initiative scheduled to be accomplished by Fall 2009.
Put schedule of classes online and stop printing paper copies
  • Response: We are exploring the feasibility of this.
Put motion detectors for lights in bathrooms and classrooms
  • Response: UNL is installing occupancy sensors in select areas where the economic payback is very short. To minimize our costs, the flick of a finger will reduce UNL's energy costs with no additional investment. "Turn lights off when leaving" stickers have been distributed to departments to apply to light switches as an added reminder.
Close the health center on Saturdays
  • Response: The Health Center is not funded by state tax dollars, it is supported by student fees. There would not be a significant energy savings by closing because medications are stored in the Pharmacy and in other clinics throughout the Health Center, the temperature must remain between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Excursions beyond those limits may affect the shelf life and potency of medications. Medications stored outside of the published limits could not be sold or used and would have to be destroyed.
  • The Pharmacy at the Health Center is the only Pharmacy at which participants in our student insurance plan can receive benefits.
  • After two years of gathering data concerning summer Saturday hours, the Student Advisory Board determined that the health center should remain open during the summer. They acknowledged that while there are significantly fewer clinic patients during Saturday hours, the Health Center is here to provide a service for the students. They felt this was especially valuable for working students who could not come in during regular hours during the week due to work schedules. This determination is being taken back to the University Health Center Governing Board in April.
Eliminate landlines for phones and move to cell phones only
  • Response: Contractual obligations and emergency communications needs preclude this at this time.
Require furloughs, one-day per month, for salaries above $100,000
  • Response: Utilizing employee furloughs is a response to a one-time shortfall in funding and UNL has not faced a mid-year budget reduction yet. I am generally opposed to any salary policy that attempts to distinguish employees based on their salary level. I appreciate the feeling behind it, but salary levels are reasonably related to market conditions, which we do not control. In addition, we might think, for example, that anyone making under $60,000 deserves (needs?) more help, but within that salary range there may be a sole breadwinner with three kids in college and a single person with a substantial inheritance. These are admittedly difficult and complex issues, with perception playing a significant role.
Reduce travel funds
  • Response: Travel is an essential part of the success of a research university and most departments do not have segregated travel funds, so Deans and Directors are responsible for making decisions about the relative importance of travel funds in their units.
Change system so that university units are not paying each other for services
  • Response: Paying for services is an incentive not to use unnecessary services. It plays the same role as price does in the marketplace. We are, however, looking at ways to streamline processes to make them more efficient and less costly.
Contact Axis Technologies for information about cutting edge technology for reducing lighting use
  • Response: We have investigated this technology, light harvesting, and have determined it is more costly than savings achievable via occupancy-based solutions which have been implemented. This technology is being evaluated for possible implementation in new construction.
Insulate windows better to avoid drafts
  • Response: UNL windows are replaced as funding becomes available.
Eliminate small appliances in offices (mini fridges, clock radios, etc.)
  • Response: An earlier UNL email to the campus encouraged unplugging unnecessary appliances.
Create a website that tracks utility use in each building
  • Response: Under development.
Buyout office staff who are close to retirement
  • Response: Tenured faculty may request buyouts because they are "selling" their tenure, which is a property right under the law and purchasable. According to Nebraska law, UNL staff are not eligible for early retirement incentives.
Create 9-month appointments for B&C -line staff
  • Response: Current policies allow for such appointments, it is a matter for the unit to decide whether they can operate effectively without the summer FTE.
Replace old cathode ray computer monitors with LCD's
  • Response: UNL's computers are being replaced with more utility efficient monitors as funding is available.
Centralize web services on campus
  • Response: The web developers network and the web advisory group were formed within the last 5 years to achieve this and we have made significant progress.
Outsource faculty email
  • Response: We are exploring this as an option but it is subject to system-wide approval.
Flexible working hours for faculty and staff
  • Response: While we recognize it would be convenient, it is not clear how this would save significant money. By Nebraska law we need to be open Monday through Friday, 8-5, during which time we have service areas that serve students.
Put a hold on Innovation Campus
  • Response: We do not have the option to put this on hold at least through January of 2010. Unless we prepare a master plan and a business plan for the Legislature by December, 2009, the property will not be given to us. We are hopeful that there is a business strategy that would reduce the claim on university resources moving forward. And, in the end, Innovation Campus is one of those essential investments for the long-term well being of the University and the State that we have decided to make.
Tax on athletic department to UNL should be 10% of its budget
  • Response: UNL's Athletic department is one of the few departments in the country that already financially contributes to the academic side of the university.
Eliminate heaters in stairwells
  • Response: This will save very little and could cost a great deal. Allowing the stairwells to get closer to the outside temperature, with many stairs having exterior doors, helps bring cold outside air into other parts of the building and increases the risk of pipe breaks resulting from frozen lines. In addition, stair cleaning may create hazardous conditions if moisture has not evaporated.
Eliminate some of the university vehicles and "fleets" on campus
  • Response: Last year, all UNL departments with vehicles that traveled less than 2,000 miles in the preceding year were contacted in an effort to reduce their vehicle costs.
  • Nebraska weather prevents reliable year round use of automobile alternatives, so reduction of mileage/repairs may be more prudent in some instances than eliminating vehicles. University Police incorporated bicycles and Segways into its patrolling to reduce mileage and maintenance on automobiles.
Turn down water heaters in the restrooms
  • Response: Hot water to UNL restrooms was turned off several years ago. The campus requested that it be turned back on. We will review this suggestion again.
Implement a hiring freeze
  • Response: We are currently under a program for hiring that requires a Vice Chancellor or other high level review before a position can be filled. We know that there are some positions at UNL we simply cannot do without, so a freeze is impractical. However, a closely monitored hiring process will ensure that we are only advertising for positions that are absolutely critical to UNL. We do not want to put ourselves in the position that we cannot take advantage of opportunities or replace essential personnel. We are trying to be careful about hiring but a freeze is too broad a solution to serve the University very well.
Utilize distance education more
  • Response: It is unlikely that in the short-run (and perhaps even in the long-run) that distance education saves money. It might attract more revenue and we are exploring whether this is possible.
Shorten length of the semester
  • Response: This would be lowering the quality of our University across the board.
Use LED lightbulbs
  • Response: For years UNL has been actively installing interior and exterior energy efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs. New capital construction and renovation projects incorporate energy efficient lighting. We have tested LED lighting in a couple locations. To date, LED lighting still does not share the same cost/benefit results as other lighting solutions. As LED lighting becomes less costly, we will utilize it.
Make landscape services accept the help of UNL and extension volunteers.
  • Response: Landscape Services is instituting a volunteer program modeled after programs at other universities. The program will be announced in April. Athletics and Landscape Services utilize fraternities and sororities to help with clean up after football games.
Decrease number of journal and organization subscriptions/memberships
  • Response: Most of this, other than libraries, is done at the unit level. We encourage everyone to carefully consider all expenditures.
Make phone number available for units that want to reduce lighting
  • Response: UNL is currently reducing 75% of its hallway lighting in its buildings. All requests for service, including requests to have light bulbs removed, should be directed to 472-1550.
Why isn't UNL receiving direct federal stimulus funds?
  • Response: The federal stimulus money is not available to the university directly if the university budget for this year will not be less than for last year. At this point, it appears that the budget will remain the same or increase, but this could change during the state budget planning.