As leadership takes pay cuts, budget questions remain

President Kennedy updates regents on coronavirus, announces pay reductions for leadership

In a communication to the CU community on Wednesday, President Mark Kennedy announced pay cuts for himself and other university leaders. The university is forecasting that state revenue will be down about $3 billion from the governor’s budget request of last fall; the state’s revenue forecasts show a similar trend.

“During unprecedented times it is important that the leadership team and I do our parts,” Kennedy wrote. “I am taking a 10% pay reduction through a furlough, along with members of my executive team and campus chancellors.”

CU leadership continues to plan for multiple scenarios that might play out depending on how the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, all while waiting on more information at the state level that will determine budgetary ramifications. That message was delivered April 16 to the Board of Regents during a special meeting, the third remotely held meeting of the board in just over two weeks. Regents have asked university leadership for updates related to COVID-19 every two weeks.

“We’ve led through the triage period and now we’re in the stabilization period,” Kennedy told the board, whose members and other attendees gathered via Zoom. “Yes, we expect state revenue to be down. We continue to be working hard on federal stimulus and relief funds that we hope will help fill those holes.”

At last week’s Board of Regents meeting, Todd Saliman, vice president of budget and finance and chief financial officer, said the state’s Joint Budget Committee awaits a new revenue and expenditure forecast due May 11 or 12.

“By then, we hope to have new information on what federal funding is available and what it can be spent on,” Saliman said.

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents agreed to delay votes on tuition, fees and compensation because of uncertainty over state and federal funding.

In the meantime, CU budget models are being built based on multiple scenarios, Saliman said, including the possibility of students returning to campuses in the fall, remote-only learning in fall 2020, or remote-only learning in fall 2020 and spring 2021.

“We’re not going to do anything that puts anyone at risk,” Kennedy said. Among the considerations being discussed are the use of oversized classrooms, limiting class sizes, staggering the use of laboratories and other facilities and availability of material such as masks and hand sanitizer, based on whatever public health guidelines might be in place at the time.

As far as a return of staff to campuses and system offices, Kennedy said some who are working remotely will be able to continue working off-site; for others, staggered schedules will likely be considered. Small pockets of furloughs may be considered in auxiliary units – those areas such as athletics and book stores that operate on revenue they generate.

“We are also focused beyond actions in the immediate future,” Kennedy said. He wants to seek ways that CU can emerge from the crisis even stronger than it was before. “I’m confident we will get through this and will see sunnier days ahead.”

The Board of Regents also heard from Don Elliman, chancellor of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, and Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz, who described the epidemiology modeling the school has been providing for state use.

A video recording of Thursday’s meeting is posted here.