News for employees, March 1, 2009


Vice provost provides update on extension budget

Colleagues:

I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on the status of MU Extension’s budget. The budget process proceeds through the Missouri legislature. 

Michael Ouart, MU Vice Provost and Director of Extension

You may be aware that following the initial budget announcement, many extension volunteers, clients and friends communicated their concerns about what a budget cut would do to extension programs locally and statewide. Those concerns were reflected in media articles and interviews around the state as well as in direct communications with the government officials.

At the request of the chancellor and the president, the regional directors, program directors and my cabinet put together documentation to illustrate the effect cuts would have on extension programs and staffing, including the inability to match funds for significant portions of our grant and contracts. Subsequently, the president met with members of the State Extension Council, the chancellor, the provost and members of my cabinet to discuss the ramifications of such cuts and to strategize about how to improve extension’s position.

On Feb. 11, the governor filed an amendment to his 2010 budget proposal to increase the appropriation for the University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension programs by more than $10.1 million — $9.3 million for MU Extension and $800,000 for LU Extension. That was certainly a signal in the right direction, and we are grateful for the governor’s response. If this were the final action, however, it would still leave us with a $5.3 million reduction — and that before any additional reduction that might occur as a result of an overall cut to the university. As a result, the regional directors, program directors and my cabinet met again to develop documentation about what the consequences of a $5.3 million budget reduction might entail.

Bev Coberly, Jo Britt-Rankin, Bud Reber and I were asked to testify before the House Agriculture Policy Committee to answer questions about extension funding and programs, and President Forsee testified before the Senate Appropriations and House Higher Education Appropriations Committees, also including information about extension.

We have received some encouraging messages from members of the General Assembly about our budget. However, until the final legislation is signed in mid-May, there are no guarantees.

As you ask, “What can I do to help?” the answer remains: Carry out great educational programs to help the people of the state through the current economic crisis and to lay the groundwork for longer-term financial and social stability. Extension learners depend on us to bring to them research-based information and resources that will help them make appropriate decisions that will improve their lives.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the university’s land-grant mission and for your dedicated service to the people of Missouri.

Michael

MU Extension budget information for faculty and staff

President Forsee answers questions at MU town-hall meeting

By John Beahler, Editor, Mizzou Weekly

The nation’s stumbling economy has forced higher education institutions around the country to take a close look at how they do business and to make some changes. Some universities have even been forced to lay off employees and take other drastic steps to balance their budgets.

At a Feb. 20 town-hall meeting in Mizzou’s Jesse Auditorium, University of Missouri President Gary Forsee and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton discussed some of the actions the university has taken to deal with the economic crisis. Forsee also discussed recent changes in the university’s compensation and benefits plans, and answered questions from faculty and staff who attended the two-hour meeting.

Although the economic future is challenging, it provides opportunities for the university to thoroughly examine its operations, make sure it remains competitive and relevant, and continues to serve the state of Missouri.

“We as a university have to be sure that we rise to the occasion, that our relevance in the future is strengthened as we come out of this economic turmoil that we’re in,” Forsee said. “As we do that, I think our place in this state will be as strong in the future as it is today.”

All of the university’s historic revenue streams are being challenged, he said, including support from the state which has slipped from about 60 percent of the university’s budget 10 years ago to as low as 27 percent today on some UM campuses.

In February, Forsee asked for and received approval from the board of curators to institute employee furloughs as a last resort to meet withholdings in the state’s appropriation for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. “I would have said to you a couple of weeks ago that every day that went by I was more concerned that we may have to use that tool,” Forsee said.

“The last week or so, as a result of the federal stimulus plan and some things going on around the state, as we continue to look at the 2009 budget, I think every day that goes by now it’s less likely that we’re going to have to use that tool. That varies by campus, and I think this campus is in a particularly strong position on not having to use that.”

Forsee also explained the financial challenges that forced the university to require faculty and staff contributions to the retirement plan for the first time. Beginning this July, employees will contribute 1 percent of the first $50,000 of their pre-tax salary to the retirement fund and 2 percent of salary over that.

Forsee said it is critical to have a well-funded pension plan, “something that you could count on, something that you didn’t have to go home and worry every night about what was going to happen to that.”

He said the university has traditionally funded the retirement plan by putting about 7 percent of benefit-eligible payroll into the fund. However, over the past year, the market value of the fund has shrunk from $2.9 billion to about $2.1 billion.

Forsee stressed that the retirement plan currently is fully funded, but the university might have to increase its annual payments into the fund by $50 million to $100 million.

Given the unpredictability of state appropriations, should the university take a risk and bet that in several years, “that there would be state funds that would come in and simply plug that hole?” he said. “I think you know the answer is that we did not want to take that risk.

“Our requirement as leaders is to ensure that we look around the corner, that we look into the future and be sure that we anticipate issues that we know could impact how we’ve historically thought about you and our culture as an institution,” he said.

Forsee said that input from the entire university community is vital in facing future economic challenges. “What I would ask you to do is have a high sense of curiosity about what are the things that this university, this campus, can do in the future that keeps us competitive, that keeps us relevant,” he said.

“That has to come from the inside out. It can’t come from the top down, either; it’s got to come from within.”

T. Boone Pickens

T. Boone Pickens to speak at UM System's first energy summit

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, architect of the "Pickens Plan" to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, is the keynote speaker for a statewide Energy Summit hosted by the University of Missouri's four campuses April 22-23 in Columbia.

Pickens is the founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, one of the nation's most successful energy-oriented investment funds. His Pickens Plan calls for revamping U.S. energy policy to harness domestic energy alternatives while promoting the development of new technologies for alternative energy.

Pickens elevated energy reform into the national debate during the 2008 presidential campaign, with both candidates using facts and statistics provided by the Pickens Plan. Many aspects of the Pickens Plan were included in President Obama's stimulus package, including incentives for advancing wind, solar and other alternative energy sources and a new transmission grid.

University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee announced in December that the Energy Summit — one of two statewide economic development forums spearheaded this year by the university's four campuses. The second summit, slated for Oct. 7-8 in Kansas City, will focus on biological and life sciences.

"We want to bring together our state's best researchers, faculty, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, federal and state agencies, students and others who can help our state assume a leadership role in achieving energy and health advances for this century," Forsee said. "Cultivating renewable energy sources and improving human health are important goals in their own right, but they also can play a huge role in advancing our state's economy by creating more jobs."

Pickens' speech kicks off an April 22 lineup of leading national energy experts at the Energy Summit, with presentations and panel discussions following on day two.

Missouri Energy Summit

Condolences

Condolences are extended to:

• David Davis, NW environmental design specialist, on the Feb. 18 death of his father, Darold Davis of Hannibal, Mo.

• Wayne Prewitt, WC ag engineering specialist, on the death of his father-in-law, Floyd Hines of Harwood, Mo.

MU Extension Insider is published on the first and 15th of each month for MU Extension faculty and staff. Send comments to Editor, Eileen Yager.