(Bangor Daily News (ME) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 30--BANGOR, Maine -- A University of Maine System panel approved the final $2.5 million in cuts at the University of Southern Maine and tabled discussion about a building that USM President Theodora Kalikow recommended be sold. The panel also approved an $11 million plan to revamp the University of Maine at Farmington's heating system.
The panel, made up of members of the system board of trustees finance, facility and technology committee, met Monday morning at the system office in Bangor. Each of the actions taken by the committee must now go to the entire board of trustees for a vote on July 21 before they can come to fruition.
The majority of the $2.5 million being cut from USM's budget comes from five professors voluntarily leaving their positions, 11 faculty retirements and one staff layoff, Dick Campbell, the university's chief financial officer, told the trustees.
"How do you feel about the staffing that is left?" trustee Marjorie Medd asked Campbell.
"We have to look at the way we're doing business and we have to change it," Campbell responded. He explained that the university is already collecting data about enrollment trends that will inform their budget drafting process for fiscal year 2016.
The budget cuts discussed Monday are part of a plan to cut USM's budget by 10 percent because of declining enrollment, flat funding from the state and frozen tuition, according to system administrators. Kalikow has said that next year the university will have to cut another $12.5 million.
In an effort to save some funds, Kalikow recommended the sale of the Stone House, a century-old building that is used by the university primarily by the master in fine arts in creative writing program, the Stone Coast Writers' Conference and a summer Book Arts program.
Kalikow said the building is only used by about 250 people for about 40 days a year. It would cost the university $8.5 million for "required maintenance and infrastructure improvements" and $75,000 to $110,000 a year thereafter to maintain it, she wrote in an email to USM faculty and staff.
The finance, facility and technology committee tabled discussion of the potential sale "for further consideration and further discussion with the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation," said committee chair Norman Fournier. The building is located on the grounds of the Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport.
The building was donated to the university by Eleanor Houston Smith, who had used the century-old building as a summer residence, according to Kalikow.
A memorandum of agreement between Smith, the American Farm Land Trust and USM states that the Board of Directors of the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation must be included in decisions about the building, according to materials from Monday's meeting.
The committee also gave initial approval to a plan to expand UMF's overhaul of its heating system on Monday. What was once a $2-million-to-$4-million project to switch the campus' 46 boilers to natural gas is now an $11 million project to create a central heating plant with the capacity to service the entire campus.
The university's original proposal would not have included an upgrade to six steam plants that exist on campus, which are "beyond the end of their useful life" and would cost $5 million to upgrade, UMF President Kathryn Foster told the trustees.
Under the new proposal, the university would build a central heating plant, which would heat the entire campus using natural gas. Foster said the new plan would save the university money over time and help reduce the university's overall carbon emissions.
UMF also got approval from the committee to spend $1.3 million to upgrade the school's science laboratories. The University of Maine got approval to spend up to $2.1 million to improve its telecommunications services.
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