UTSA administrators announce major budget cuts and restrictive measures due to COVID-19

UTSA+administrators+are+set+to+make+substantial+budget+cuts+for+FY+21.+These+come+as+the+COVID-19+pandemic+damages+university+revenue+streams.

Josh Peck

UTSA administrators are set to make substantial budget cuts for FY 21. These come as the COVID-19 pandemic damages university revenue streams.

Josh Peck, News Editor

Even after being awarded a federal emergency grant of nearly $30 million earlier in April, UTSA continues to struggle to make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, university administrators led by President Dr. Taylor Eighmy, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy and Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Veronica Mendez are asking colleges and university divisions to make substantial budget cuts. 

In an email sent out to UTSA faculty and staff on April 30, Eighmy, Espy and Mendez indicated that there will be a 9% cut to academic colleges and a 10% cut to all other university divisions for fiscal year (FY) 21, which begins in Fall 2020 and stretches through the academic year to Fall 2021. These cuts have been calculated based on “conservative” estimates of the loss of revenue that UTSA can expect to face in FY 21, according to the email. Colleges and university divisions will be able to make their own decisions on what to cut, in an effort to “develop locally tailored solutions,” according to the announcement.

The university is also preparing to make a possible additional cut of 5% to academic colleges and university divisions — a total of a 14% cut to colleges and a 15% cut to divisions — if initial estimates were lower than actual revenue losses. 

Some of the revenue loss estimates are a 2.5% decrease in revenue from tuition and fees and a 10% cut in state appropriations. UTSA is estimating a loss of $37 million to unrestricted funding sources as a result of these revenue losses. The estimated revenue of FY 21 was expected to be $371 million before the pandemic hit. The university did not respond to a request as to whether the estimated 2.5% tuition and fees revenue request was based on a scenario where students are on campus in the fall or not.

An April 20 email from Mendez to faculty and staff indicated that she wanted university units “to protect as many jobs as possible.” Additionally, two of the leading budget planning principles that Eighmy, Espy and Mendez listed in the April 30 email were to retain jobs and maintain “current salaries/pay rates and preserving employee benefits to the extent possible.”

Robyn Castro
President Dr. Taylor Eighmy being interviewed by several news outlets. Eighmy recognizes the possibility of layoffs and furloughs to UTSA staff even though he is asking colleges and divisions to consider other options first.

However, the email from Eighmy, Espy and Mendez recognized the possibility of layoffs, furloughs and reductions in force.

“Some limited furloughs and layoffs/reductions-in-force may need to be an element of these conversations, though we are encouraging units to prioritize other cost-savings measures wherever possible,” the email said.

A Business Affairs budget planning document briefly laid out how layoffs would be considered. 

“Layoffs can be considered when the unit does not have enough work for the employee to perform or there is a financial condition that precludes them from covering the salary,” according to the document. “In this case, colleges/divisions could be able to fill the position when the financial situation improves.”

The university did not respond when asked if there were any estimates of the number of layoffs and furloughs that could be made.

In another effort to restrict the budget, no merit raises will occur in FY 21.

In an attempt to alleviate the financial burden on staff, Eighmy, Espy and Mendez announced that they, along with all other vice presidents at the university, will contribute 10% of their salaries to replenish the Roadrunner Staff Emergency Fund (RSEF). The RSEF was created by the Staff Senate to assist staff members financially during emergency situations. It is not receiving applications for funds until Fall 2020. Based on an FY 2020 list of administrative salaries from the Legislative Budget Board, this 10% contribution could total to between approximately $205,393.30 to $226,393.30 for the RSEF. This approximation is based on the FY 2020 salaries of all vice presidents at UTSA, and contributions began on May 1. 

An earlier version of this article said that the vice presidents’ 10% contribution to the RSEF would be approximately $662,591; this number was calculated with all levels of vice presidents included and has since been changed due to clarification from the university. It now only includes the eight vice presidents in Eighmy’s cabinet: Academic Affairs; Business Affairs; Research, Economic Development and Knowledge Enterprise; University Relations; Inclusive Excellence; Development and Alumni Relations; Intercollegiate Athletics; and Information Management and Technology. Salaries for the vice presidents of University Relations and Development and Alumni Relations were not immediately available.

The administrators said that the hiring freeze that had previously been put in place would continue with rare exceptions.