- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The University of Nebraska president has ordered a hiring freeze and travel restrictions as the system prepares for fallout from a nearly $1 billion budget gap forecast for state government.

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board predicted last month that state tax revenue will fall $910 million below estimated expenses through the end of the next two-year budget period. According to the board, low commodity prices are mainly responsible for the low tax collections

President Hank Bounds said in a Monday email to university employees that he expects more cutbacks are ahead because reducing hiring and travel will not save enough money for the system to weather the looming budget storms.

More than 80 percent of spending goes toward salaries and benefits.

“While we are continuing to analyze the numbers as they evolve, there is no question that we have difficult decisions ahead,” Bounds said. “Cuts to our state funding would almost certainly impact people, programs and affordability across our campuses.”

Lawmakers will begin crafting a 2017-18 and 2018-19 state budget in January. About two-thirds of the school’s operations budget derives from the state and the other one-third from school tuition.

The positions affected by the hiring freeze are ones funded by the state, including positions where searches were already being conducted. Research jobs, university housing positions and university athletic positions will not be affected since they are either funded by federal grants or part of self-sustaining programs. Jobs that are deemed “absolutely critical to our mission” will also be exempt from the freeze, Bounds said.

“As we navigate this challenge, our first priority will be protecting the academic enterprise of the university,” Bounds said. “We will not let a temporary economic downturn damage our long-term quality, momentum and competitiveness.”

The system has two campuses in Omaha, one in Lincoln and one in Kearney.


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