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September 14, 1995

Business and Finance reallocates $1.5 million to support initiatives

As part of its new five- year plan, the Office of Business and Finance will reallocate $1.5 million in funds in fiscal 1996 to support a dozen initiatives ranging from energy conservation to implementation of the University's master plan.

In addition, another $300,000 will be reallocated to accommodate emergency needs likely to arise during the year, such as equipment failure, demands for state or federal government studies and outside contracting requirements.

The reallocation of the funds will result in the elimination of some staff positions, acknowledged Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Ben Tuchi, but he added that employees in the Business and Finance division need not worry about layoffs in 1996.

"Funds from vacant positions identified through attrition will be redirected to the resolution of the reallocation requirements," Tuchi said. "Vacant positions will be scrutinized very carefully to determine whether those positions are needed. Those not needed will be eliminated so as to permanently redirect the money to other initiatives." Although he did not rule out the possibility of layoffs sometime in the next five years, Tuchi said that Pitt's roughly 25 percent annual turnover rate should be large enough to support Business and Finance's initiatives this year and most likely in the future.

If attrition resulting from people leaving the University on their own or retiring is not enough, Tuchi also said there is a possibility that an early retirement package could be offered staff in the future as a way of reducing the work force without layoffs.

"Eliminating positions sounds like jobs are at issue," he said. "They are. But, if positions are eliminated carefully, it can be done by attrition. You don't have to wield a large ax and lay people off. Done carefully and sequentially, you can minimize the impact." While noting that cuts can be made in areas like travel and postage, Tuchi said roughly 73 percent of the University's operating expenses go to salaries and benefits, and that, given the declining contributions of state and federal governments and constraints on tuition, there is no way the University can solve its financial problems without tackling compensation.

Overall approaches to solving compensation problems, Tuchi added, need to be avoided because they don't work. Freezes might solve the problem for a very short period of time, he said, but are useless in the long-term since good compensation is critical to attracting good people.

The initiatives for which $1.5 million is being reallocated are meant to protect or enhance revenue sources or to make Business and Finance more effective in support of the primary missions of the University, according to Tuchi. They include: * Hiring an energy engineer and developing an energy conservation education program.

* Replacing campus police radios, which will improve police communications and thus campus safety.

* Establishing a trial student escort service to improve campus safety.

* Providing additional support for student computer labs.

* Installing computer software applications for financial and human resources systems, and contributing to technological enhancement on a University-wide level.

* Undertaking an engineering study of utilities for a federal grant proposal.

* Upgrading computers and other equipment in several departments.

* Moving the Office of Facilities Management from the basement of Benedum Hall to the Eureka Building to accommodate the School of Engineering.

* Completing tasks outlined in this year's portion of the University's master plan.

* Accommodating the Information Technology Steering Committee's budget reductions for administrative computing.

* Launching a risk management program to lower the University's exposure to insurable and environmental risks.

* Expanding the University-wide recycling program.

Without getting into specific amounts, Tuchi said Business and Finance's biggest single emphasis will be on "information architecture." Significant outlays will be made for computers and software applications to cut costs and improve productivity.

"In the next year, you will see nothing actually happen because installing these systems isn't done with blinding speed," he added. "It's done over years." Another area of emphasis will be energy conservation. (See story on this page.) The University spends about $20 million a year on energy, according to Tuchi, so "we damn well better control that." How successful the University might be in trimming its energy bills will depend to a large extent on the cooperation of the faculty and staff, the consumers of that energy. "Unless people want to participate, what can we do centrally?" Tuchi asks. "Turn off the water? Participation is really important." One of the major thrusts of Business and Finance over the past three years has been student issues, according to Tuchi. Funds have been spent to improve residence halls and food services, to start a bus system that moves about 9,000 people a day, to hire additional campus police and to start a police bicycle patrol.

Addressing student needs "probably has been the single most important aspect of what Business and Finance has done in the last three years," Tuchi said. "And that isn't going to stop." The purchase of new police radios, establishment of an escort service and support for computing laboratories are items related to student safety and welfare planned over the next year by Business and Finance. "But let's face it," Tuchi said of the plan as a whole. "Some people are going to look at these objectives and say, 'Wow, fantastic!' More than likely, though, others are going to look at some of them and say, 'Yes, we need to do that, but why do we need to do these others.' Not everybody is going to be pleased."

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 2

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