- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said Monday that it can no longer depend on its reserves to pull it through budget shortfalls and was laying off 258 people, including some doctors and faculty members, to address a $30 million hole in its $1.5 billion budget. Another 350 jobs will remain unfilled.

Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner told the school’s 10,900 employees in an email Monday that while it had previously used reserve money to make ends meet, it could no longer do so. Making cuts now would save the school $26 million to $30 million before the June 30 end of the fiscal year. Next year’s savings will total about $60 million.

In all, about 600 jobs will disappear throughout the statewide system. UAMS has employees in 73 of the state’s 75 counties.

“This is the first major reduction in force we’ve ever had,” school spokeswoman Leslie Taylor said. She said she believed the school would continue to have a presence in each of those 73 counties.

Just before sunup Monday, Gardner sent an email to every UAMS employee explaining what was happening.

“Over the last several weeks, UAMS leadership has been conducting a comprehensive review of all areas of UAMS to identify cost savings and make adjustments. However, personnel is our largest expense and we have come to the extremely painful realization that we can’t meet our budget without also eliminating jobs,” she wrote.

“We have made every effort to cut unfilled positions where possible, but 258 of the affected positions are currently occupied,” she continued in the email. Those losing their jobs would be notified Monday.

“It is not being undertaken because of performance issues but simply because we do not have the money to fund everything we have in the past,” Gardner wrote.

More than two-thirds of UAMS’ budget comes from patient care, while less than 7 percent comes from state appropriations - $108 million, a figure down 10 percent since it was given $120 million in 2014.

In an email to The Associated Press on Monday night, Gov. Asa Hutchinson praised the medical school’s administration.

“This is an example of UAMS working to manage its budget in a responsible way,” Hutchinson said. “This is difficult on the impacted families and the state will work to provide any training or other assistance that is available. State funding for UAMS has been steady since I became governor, and there are no current plans for additional general revenue assistance from the state.”

The school’s previous chancellor, Dr. Dan Rahn, said in 2016 that the school faced financial hurdles and needed additional state funding. He said UAMS had been receiving fewer research dollars because of increased competition, needed to raise pay for its professional staff, needed renovations to meet fire codes and additional maintenance, and had to use state money to draw federal matching money, leaving it with only $21 million to be spent freely.

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This story has been corrected to show that Dr. Dan Rahn is the school’s previous chancellor, not Dan Ragan, and that Leslie Taylor said she believed the school would continue to have a presence in each of the 73 counties where it currently has employees, not 75 counties.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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