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After $20 Million In Budget Fixes, UMass Boston Now Projecting $6 Million Deficit

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The University of Massachusetts Boston campus is projected to end this fiscal year with a deficit of between $6 million and $7 million after implementing more than $20 million in budget fixes, UMass officials said Tuesday.

Lisa Calise, the university system's senior vice president of administration and finance, updated members of the UMass Board of Trustees on efforts to close a roughly $26 million budget gap.

Calise told the board's Administration and Finance Committee that UMass Boston had made $15.8 million in "expense adjustments," including $11 million in discretionary savings, $1.2 million in deferred information technology investments, and $1 million saved in financial aid due to lower enrollment numbers. She said the school had made $4.7 million in "revenue changes," of which $4 million came from fee changes for College of Advancing and Professional Studies courses.

"I want to be clear that every decision that has been made related to this issue has been what I believe to be in the best interest of the campus in order to preserve its vital mission, avoid steep tuition increases for students, and protect the teaching and learning environment on campus," UMass President Martin Meehan told the committee.

The operating budget the university approved for the 2017 fiscal year allowed for $429.6 million in spending at UMass Boston, and anticipated $431.8 million in revenue at the campus.

Meehan said the campus's original budget plan, approved by trustees, called for $25.7 million in cuts to achieve the projected $2.3 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2017.

Meehan said the campus "waited too long to implement" that plan.

"We're moving forward," he told reporters. "We believe that the failure here is more in execution of the plan that was presented to the Board of Trustees by the Boston campus. It's more an issue of execution."

The campus's first quarterly budget report to the central office projected it would instead end the year with a $10 million deficit. When the second quarterly report was submitted in late January, Meehan said the deficit had grown to $15 million.

After seeing the second quarter projections, Meehan established what he called an "emergency task force" to handle UMass Boston's budget, bringing together officials from both the Boston campus and the system's central office.

The task force is meeting weekly and began implementing budget fixes in the third quarter, Calise said.

UMass Boston in March brought on Barry Mills, the former president of Bowdoin College, to serve as its deputy chancellor and chief operating officer. Officials said at the time that he would help in "developing and refining long-term strategy."

Chancellor Keith Motley last week announced he would resign at the end of June, take a year-long sabbatical and return to teaching. Mills will serve as interim chancellor.

Mills on Tuesday told the board's Committee of the Whole that he faces a "remarkably daunting responsibility" at the campus, where he said systemic change is needed to address budget problems exacerbated by ongoing capital projects and enrollment numbers that did not meet "optimistic" projections.

"This is not a one-year turnaround," Mills said.

Trustees discussed the status of UMass Boston in a series of meetings Tuesday afternoon at the UMass Club on Beacon Street. On Wednesday, they will gather at the UMass Boston campus for a full board meeting, where students, faculty members and union representatives are scheduled to speak.

Students, faculty and staff also plan to rally outside the meeting against potential program cuts and tuition increases,according to the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Anneta Argyres, the vice president of UMass Boston's professional staff union, told the Administration and Finance Committee that the deficit is driven by "necessary rebuilding," including infrastructure upgrades to address "crumbling and leaking" buildings.

"An investment needs to be made in the Boston campus to rebuild it," she said. "If that entire investment is put on the shoulders of our operating budget, we will radically reduce, diminish, nearly eliminate the quality of education we deliver to our students."

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