August 24, 2010

Administrators Believe Cost-Cutting Initiatives Will Save University $75 Million

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After reviewing recommendations from the Initiatives Coordination Office, President David Skorton and Provost Kent Fuchs have accepted a number of cost-saving initiatives in several areas of focus at the University, a move that the administration expects to save the University up to $75 million annually by 2015.

“As a campus, we are going through a tough financial period that is not quite over yet and these plans are the roadmap to take us into the future,” Vice President for Planning and Budget Elmira Mangum said in an e-mail. “There is still much to be done and investments to be made to realize the transformations but the implementation is underway and is at various stages.”

The recommendations come in a number of key areas, including information technologies, facilities, procurement and financial transactions.

Facilities will see a variety of changes, the most notably being a “campus-wide governance structure,” headed by Vice President for Facilities Services Kyu-Jung Whang, which will establish facilities standards across the University. Additionally, Cornell expects to save money through energy conservation.

“Energy conservation is something we at Facilities have been doing for a long time,” Whang said in an e-mail. “The University has recently authorized the FY10 and FY11 plans and the Energy team is working on developing future plans for this five-year initiative. The plan includes lighting and HVAC upgrades, lab air

Other large changes taking place will be in the area of Information Technologies. Helping coordinate these will be the recently formed IT Governance Council, which will “centralize” IT staff into individual groups, as well as limit the development of programs each year. The IT department will, instead, purchase programs as needed in order to eliminate development and labor costs.

“Once formed, future IT support will be provided by staff assigned to service groups formed around interested business based clusters,” Mangum said. “The University has adopted a buy instead of build philosophy for new applications using University funds. There is also an expectation that there will be limits set on the types of hardware and peripherals bought with University funding.”

The Initiatives Coordination Office was started last year as a way to effectively manage and “streamline” the plethora of cost-saving measures and budgetary changes in the wake of Reimagining Cornell and the task forces.

“The Initiative Coordination Office is designed to facilitate and coordinate the implementation across the campus,” Mangum said. “It functions as a program management office.”

The cost-saving measures are hoped to be achieved with as little personnel loss as possible, though the University has conceded that certain job loss is inevitable in order to realize their desired budget cuts.

“Many position eliminations have already occurred and many others will occur through attrition,” said Vice President for Human Resources Mary Opperman.  “As each functional area moves from the planning stage into implementation it is looking at the positions that are being impacted and determining whether the positions need to change.  Because the university held open so many jobs in the last two years – over 700 – we have given ourselves flexibility that is helping us make some of these changes with less impact on people.”

Original Author: Brendan Doyle