Metro

Get Smart: Umass Boston budget trouble

As they say, numbers don’t lie.

UMass Boston Deputy Chancellor Barry Mills recently held a forum for faculty, staff, and students on campus to offer a look at the school’s financial situation and explain how it landed in a fiscal crisis this year.

The reasons are many and complex, but some of it is simple math.

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Enrollment in fiscal year 2014 was 16,277. This fiscal year, it was 16,847 — below the school’s goal of 17,085. Couple that with the fact that over the same time period, the total number of employees at the university rose from 1,885 to 2,095.

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What’s more, employee compensation grew from around $235 million to nearly $300 million this year, according to the presentation, which is posted online.

Overall this year’s revenue will be $424 million. Expenses will be $431 million. You do the math. The fiscal year ends June 30.

Those numbers include a host of budget-cutting measures the school is implementing. UMass officials expect to end the year with a $7 million deficit, down from an original projection of $30 million.

As a result of the debt, the school has put some construction projects on hold to save money.

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You’ve heard about the nursing building that has stalled, but there are other projects now in construction purgatory: a $28 million energy plant, a $23 million campus police and athletic facility, a $4 million pedestrian bridge from the new parking garage (already under construction) and a $12 million project to install fire suppression systems in the library and Clark Athletic Center. The campus CFO acknowledged that last project would address a very serious safety concern.

Despite the turmoil, administrators said in the meeting that they expect enrollment next year to rise.

So far for first-years this fall, they said they have had a 5 percent increase in applications, a 19 percent increase in admitted students, and a 28 percent increase in deposits, including a big jump in international students, they said.

Among many budget-cutting measures, the school is offering voluntary buy-outs for employees and plans to cut 86 course sections in the fall. That means some classes with a single section will be cut entirely, and other courses will have more students in each section.

Mills took questions from the audience and said he plans to make the forum a regular event. How long he will remain at the helm of UMass Boston is anyone’s guess, although his contract is for five years, through March 2, 2022.

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Before he spoke, Mills donned one of the #SaveUMB stickers that a group of students and professors offered to audience members at the door.

“I take my responsibility to ‘Save UMB’ very seriously,” he said.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.