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UW-River Falls faces $5.74 million cut

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In an e-mail to staff, faculty and students, the interim vice chancellor for administration and finance of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls announced Wednesday the school was facing a budget cut of $5.74 million in the coming biennial budget.

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The cuts being faced by UW-River Falls are part of the $174 million cut to the UW-System that Gov. Jim Doyle included in his proposed 2009-11 budget.

"We have not yet fit all of the pieces together that will make up our response to these cuts," said Lisa Wheeler in her e-mail.

One response Wheeler doesn't expect is cutting staff.

"We don't anticipate any layoffs at this time," said Wheeler in an interview.

Wheeler said if the UW-System Board of Regents approves a tuition increase that total amount of the cut would change. The regents are expected to approve tuition rates in July.

Wheeler noted that UW-River Falls' staff began working on ways to respond to budget cuts last year when they received word that state revenues were not meeting projections.

She said in her e-mail that six project teams have been working on various strategies which range from examining the tuition model to sources of new revenue.

Those teams are designed to look at the long-term health of the university and involve long-term planning.

Wheeler said the UW-System has given principles to follow in coming up with ways to deal with the reduced funding.

One of these principles is that institutions should consider eliminating or merging academic programs and majors that have low enrollment or are similar to those offered elsewhere in the UW-System.

Other principles included hiring slowdowns, travel restrictions and slowing the UW-System's 2008-09 growth agenda. That agenda focuses on getting more students into college, expanding jobs in the state and establishing partnerships with communities.

Wheeler said UW-River Falls will not enact across the board departmental budget cuts, but rather look at strategic cuts instead.

She said the university has to have a plan together in a month when the UW-System presents a budget to the state.

Wheeler noted that while some of the project teams will still be working at that time, they will provide enough input to help in deciding how to handle the funding cut.

One area that won't be cut is athletics which are funded by student funds, according to Wheeler.

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