The University of Missouri will allow faculty and staff to take a voluntary pay cut in an attempt to alleviate the loss of state revenue and investment income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


UM System President Mun Choi has already rolled out pay cuts of 10 percent for three months for himself, chancellors, cabinet-level officers and deans. And he has warned that academic units could see their budgets cut by 12.5 percent or more and for employees to be prepared for layoffs.


Reports from various academic and support units on the Columbia campus in response to Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to withhold $36.9 from the UM System are due Thursday, campus spokesman Christian Basi said Monday.


"At that point, a decision will be made among administrators to determine what actions should be taken immediately," Basi said.


Further budget cuts will come before the Board of Curators during their June meeting, which is also when the board is scheduled to set tuition for the coming year.


The voluntary pay cuts won’t replace those decisions, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Patty Haberberger warned in a message sent to faculty and staff.


"While we appreciate the generosity and dedication of those who choose to participate, please keep in mind that these actions will not eliminate the need for other steps to reduce payroll costs during this unprecedented pandemic and the related financial uncertainty," Haberberger wrote. "Those who volunteer may still be subject to furloughs, layoffs, salary reductions or other actions."


For employees who want to surrender some of their pay, MU set up a website where employees can sign up for a pay reduction of 2, 5 or 10 percent for three months.


The website was established after discussions with employees during town hall forums conducted for the Columbia and other campuses, Basi said.


"We had several folks at town halls ask if they could donate, or sacrifice, some of their compensation to alleviate layoffs and furloughs," Basi said.


The financial uncertainty facing the university involves state funding, investment income for endowed faculty positions and scholarships and tuition revenue.


In Jefferson City on Monday, state lawmakers began debating a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year that cuts $128 million in general revenue from higher education programs, including $36.9 million from the UM System. Even at those reduced levels, the budget is dependent on the state lottery producing the anticipated revenue and state revenues stabilizing in the fall.


The Board of Curators has not set tuition rates for the fall semester and could, under state law, increase rates by up to 5 percent plus inflation because of state budget cuts. But with the uncertainty of the economy, the wisdom of a tuition increase at this time has been questioned.


Financial markets have recovered somewhat from the crash that took place in March and early April but stock values are down about 15 percent from the February highs and dividend income from holdings could be cut.


The final decision on layoffs or other cuts will be left to division leaders on campus, Basi said.


rkeller@columbiatribune.com


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