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Update on budget planning

Email from Larry Sampler, Vice President of Administration, Finance and Facilities/COO

July 20, 2020 

Dear Roadrunners,

I know that recent budget decisions have been unnerving for many in our community. Despite anticipating the pain we are feeling from this budget crunch for many months, it is incredibly hard to eliminate positions and say goodbye to colleagues. As President Davidson noted in her last email, we do not expect any further layoffs at this time, but the budget continues to present us with major challenges.

To honor our commitment to transparency, I’m writing to share more about what we anticipate as next steps as we continue to grapple with the budget. Fall enrollment is among our top concerns right now. As part of our standard budgeting process, led by the Budget Recommendation Committee (see team list below), we’d planned to absorb a 5% enrollment decline, if needed, as part of a projected $14 million budget shortfall. As of this writing, our enrollment is down 9.9%. Even after all the difficult work that has already been done, if our enrollment stays at this level, we would still be more than $3 million short. Given this reality, we have no choice but to consider every cost-reduction tool available to us.

Mandatory furloughs are one such tool. While no decision has been made yet, it seems likely we will need to enact these furloughs as early as August. I am providing more details on what this would look like so you can begin planning in your departments, offices and branches. Thank you to the BRC and its Compensation Subcommittee, as well as the Faculty Senate, for their support and analysis in our inclusive contingency-planning efforts and for doing so with employee impact as your guiding principle.

If adopted, all non-classified professional staff making over $50,000 annually would be required to take some furlough days over the course of this fiscal year. Furloughs are unpaid days off, during which employees do not work. I’ve included a chart below to show how many days would be required for professional staff in each tier. Employees that are already participating in voluntary furloughs or leaves of absence would not be asked to increase their number of days unless the original request was less than what is listed in the chart. This tiered approach places the least burden on those with the lowest annual income.

Cat I and Cat II faculty members would also be required to take furlough days as a temporary measure to reduce the budget. Given the average faculty salary at MSU Denver is in tier 2 (see chart above), faculty members would be furloughed for five days for the 2020-21 academic year. Approving a set number of furlough days for faculty allows Academic Affairs to arrange time off to have the least possible effect on students. For example, faculty furlough days could be scheduled when campus is open, but classes are not in session, such as during fall break (Nov. 23-25), the period following winter break (Jan. 4-19) or spring break (March 22-26). Faculty members who are already participating in voluntary pay reductions, course release or leaves of absence would not be asked to take additional pay cuts unless their original voluntary reduction was less than their pay band requires.

This round of furloughs would provide a combined $1.1 million in additional savings and get us closer to bridging the budget shortfall. The furloughs would go into effect as soon as August and carry us through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2021.

I understand this is a lot to digest. If it is helpful to you, please consider attending the next Budget Recommendation Committee meeting on July 24 at 10 a.m., where representatives from all areas of the University will discuss details, answer questions and fine-tune this plan. Watch the Early Bird for more details and a link to the meeting later this week.

In addition, President Davidson wanted me to thank every Roadrunner who submitted budget solutions through the idea catcher this spring and summer. We’re going to open that form back up in case people have additional thoughts they’d like to share in advance of the BRC meeting. I also want to acknowledge the hard work faculty members have done this summer, training on Canvas and shifting classes over from Blackboard. That’s been a heavy lift and will greatly benefit students.

Please know that MSU Denver’s leaders continue to make strategic decisions based on the latest data and research, and with our students and employees in mind. These are challenging times, but I feel confident that our community can weather this perfect storm together.


Larry Sampler
Vice President of Administration, Finance and Facilities/COO

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