UM to offer severance to non-faculty employees as budget overhaul continues

The University of Montana will offer voluntary severance packages to eligible, non-faculty employees in its ongoing effort to reduce personnel costs, school president Sheila Stearns said Tuesday.

Over the past year, Stearns has detailed the school’s plans to bring its staffing in line with enrollment. While UM saw an uptick in both freshman and graduate-student enrollment this fall, Stearns said work remains on a number of fronts to build a sustainable budget.

“The University of Montana must reduce the percentage of the budget spent on personnel,” Stearns said Tuesday. “This severance offer is another strategy aimed at that goal and may also reduce the number of involuntary reductions we’ll be forced to make to align our personnel expenses.”

Stearns said the severance offer will be similar to the Voluntary Employee Retirement Incentive Program offered to tenured faculty members earlier this year. In addition, UM has slowed its hiring, with recruitment for positions supported by the general fund requiring presidential approval.

Personnel account for roughly 81 percent of the university’s budget, Stearns said.

Ideally, we would’ve preferred to wait for the conclusion of our prioritization efforts to make some of these decisions,” Stearns said. “However, this offer creates choices and options for our employees. Our budget challenges – largely as the result of spending close to 90 percent on personnel – are significant, and strategies to address them cannot be deferred.”

UM also is in the midst of a program prioritization effort that Stearns said will further inform the overhaul of academic programming and administrative services offered at the university. She detailed those plans in part earlier this year during her state-of-the university address.

The voluntary severance offer will be detailed in campus meetings at both 11 a.m. and noon on Wednesday in the University Center Theater.