University of Montana squeezes budgets for upcoming fiscal year | Local

The University of Montana will use adjuncts far less in the coming school year as one way to shore up its tight budget.

Currently, UM employs an estimated 20 percent to 24 percent of its faculty on a part-time or annual basis, UM spokeswoman Paula Short said this week.

The next fiscal year begins July 1, and UM is finalizing its budget to reflect a general fund that’s roughly $1.3 million smaller than its $146.4 million budget the current fiscal year.

The drop isn’t as steep as UM had forecast as a worst-case scenario.

However, the cuts come on top of significant reductions last year that left many faculty members without phones or travel money. Decisions to forego some hires also are coming before the results of a formal process that intends to set priorities at UM.

This week, officials from Main Hall said the budget is still in planning phases, and it is too early to tell how many of the instructors hired on an annual or part-time basis will be retained or have their hours cut — and if cut, by how much.

At the same time, some adjunct instructors, including longtime fixtures at the university, already are learning their hours will be reduced for the coming calendar year.

In recent years, the university has struggled with its budget as a result of a persistent drop in enrollment, some 24 percent since 2010.

As part of an effort to cut $12 million, the campus announced in January 2016 that it would lay off 27 people — and reduce 192 full-time positions in all — come summer.

But even with those cuts, interim UM President Sheila Stearns and officials in the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education have said too much of UM’s budget goes to personnel.

Earlier this year, Stearns said an estimated 81 percent of UM’s budget goes to personnel, and she wanted to see the figure drop to a percentage in the low 70s. This week,…

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