UT executives to take pay cut, give up vehicles

Associated Press • Dec 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — University of Tennessee President John Petersen and his executive staff will take a 5 percent base pay cut and give up their vehicles in the face of mounting state budget pressures.

The voluntary actions announced Thursday should save about $165,000 in the current fiscal year ending June 30 and more than $400,000 over a full year, university officials said.

The voluntary cuts in base pay will affect Petersen and 22 executive staff members, including the heads of UT campuses and UT system vice presidents, starting Jan. 1. All have six-figure salaries, ranging from Vice President for Equity and Diversity Theotis Robinson’s $110,392 to Petersen’s $431,765. The annual savings is $254,206.

Nineteen also have university cars that will be relinquished April 1. That’s another $150,000 savings.

Though less than the $500,000 the university has just spent remodeling the president’s floor in the executive office tower at UT-Knoxville, the savings should help blunt anticipated cuts in academic programs.

“These will be real cuts and we take them seriously,” Petersen said in a statement. “We felt it was appropriate to begin with the leadership responsible for developing those plans.”

Tennessee’s public colleges and universities have been forced to absorb $90 million in budget cuts this year and have been asked by Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration to trim another $181.7 million, or 14.6 percent, in their plans for fiscal 2009-2010, which begins July 1.

The five-campus, 46,000-student UT system’s share of this was $38 million this year and $75 million next year. The rest is coming from the 180,000-student Tennessee Board of Regents system, which includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers.

UT-Knoxville Faculty Senate President John Nolt, a sometime critic, called it a “bold and beneficial step by the Petersen administration.”

“It won’t change the big picture dramatically,” he said. “But the $400,000 that will be saved ... if translated into faculty jobs, could have a real impact on the availability of classes to students in the fall.”

Regents spokeswoman Mary Morgan said voluntary executive pay cuts and other actions “are under consideration” at the Regents system. “We are looking at all of our alternatives but haven’t made any decisions yet and probably won’t until after the first of the year,” she said.

Yet Petersen told his top staff in a teleconference Thursday that reductions couldn’t wait and they should begin preparing for even harsher trimming of up to $100 million, or 20 percent, next year.

“The budget numbers from the state further emphasize the need for significant cost reductions to a degree that obviously necessitate sacrifices,” Petersen said. “It’s inevitable we’ll be making difficult cuts, including programs and probably some positions.”

Although men’s athletic director Mike Hamilton and women’s athletic director Joan Cronan are paid from sporting event revenue, not state funds, they also will take a 5 percent pay cut. That combined $24,700 in savings will go to academic programs as well.

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