Portland, Maine — The University of Maine System (UMS) Board of Trustees approved the fiscal year (FY) 2023 operating budget Monday during its regular, two-day meeting at the University of Southern Maine (USM) Portland Campus.
The $616.7 million FY23 operating budget, which also includes the budgets for the individual universities and the University of Maine School of Law (Maine Law), is up $30.8 million from the FY22 base budget. It includes $13.7 million for capital investments in infrastructure and facility projects, not including those for information technology, across UMS, more than the approximately $10.6 million in the FY22 budget and the about $6.6 million in the FY21 budget.
Overall, the System plans to spend $144.5 million from all of its funding sources toward its facilities and infrastructure during the fiscal year, exceeding investments allocated for FY22 and FY21. That includes $75.8 million for new space, $23.1 million in space renewal and renovations, $16.8 million for building systems and $12.8 million for athletic fields. These investments are detailed in the FY23 Capital Investment Plan, which the board approved as part of its consent agenda on Monday.
“New facilities and much-needed renovations and maintenance for our existing ones will enhance the quality of life for students and employees across the University of Maine System,” says Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We have embraced our board’s charge to ensure that we have top-notch infrastructure at our universities, which we hope will support our ongoing efforts to increase student enrollment and recruit and retain great faculty and staff.”
Trustees also approved the student charges for the fiscal year and transfers from institutional reserves, which include those from the budget stabilization funds to offset net unrestricted operating losses for multiple institutions for FY22 and FY23.
The System will provide the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) and Maine Law a combined $6.5 million to balance their FY23 budgets. UMF and UMPI also will receive $1.45 million and $1.83 million, respectively, for FY22 budget stabilization.
The University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) and USM have balanced FY23 budgets, and the University of Maine (UMaine) will use $11.9 million of its own campus reserves to stabilize its budget. Overall, universities and the System are addressing a combined $18.8 million in budgetary gaps with campus reserves and UMS budget stabilization fund transfers. Although a System special retirement incentive for faculty will lead to savings at all System universities in the next fiscal year, larger operating gaps existed at UMF, and System reserves were not sufficient to stave off the loss of nine faculty positions to balance that university’s FY23 budget.
Responding to faculty concerns
Numerous faculty from several System universities addressed the Board during an extended public comment period Monday, expressing their views about the UMA presidential search, faculty retrenchments at UMF, Chancellor Malloy’s leadership, and UMS operations. Outgoing Board Chair Mark Gardner, whose term on the System Board ends this month, acknowledged the faculty views and said the Board needs to reexamine how work is conducted to incorporate more collaboration, inclusion and dialogue in System processes.
Gardner said he recognizes that mistakes were made in the UMA search; UMS announced late yesterday that Dr. Michael Laliberte, who had been slated to serve as the next UMA president in August, would be voluntarily withdrawing from his contract to do so. Gardner noted, however, that the policy and process followed for finding prospective university presidents also yielded a successful search for USM in Jacqueline Edmondson, who will begin her tenure as 18th president starting July 1. Gardner, however, says the Board could consider how the rules of the process are followed in the future.
“There is a real need for all of us — all of us — to figure out and work together to turn the tide here. If we didn’t have unified accreditation, the Board was told by the creditors that some of these small campuses might not be accredited in the future due to financial instability,” Gardner said. “At the end of the day, the number one responsibility of this Board is to adhere to its fiduciary responsibility of making sure we can fund and operate our universities. We’re all in it together. This boat will float or will sink depending on how well everybody works.”
Updates on strategic priorities
On Monday, Huron Consulting Group delivered a presentation detailing the progress toward creating a five-year strategic plan for UMS, the first in more than a decade.
In July 2021, trustees charged the chancellor with submitting a plan for the System with a vision that is financially sustainable and has clear priorities, measurable outcomes and strategies to achieve them. Huron Consulting Group was retained to facilitate the strategic planning process. A System website has been set up to detail the strategic planning effort and process to date.
Consultants discussed their efforts to collect quantitative data and conduct stakeholder interviews and university visits to ascertain priority concerns and opportunities for improvement that will help shape the plan. They also described how strategic planning efforts align with unified accreditation.
“These initial steps in the strategic planning process are crucial for developing our vision for public higher education in Maine,” said Jim Thelen, vice chancellor for strategic affairs and chief legal officer for UMS, who introduced the Huron team’s presentation to the Board. “I’d like to thank our consultants at Huron for all of their hard work and to everyone who has so far provided input for our strategic plan, all of which is vital for identifying our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for achieving our aspirations for our universities.”
Board action scheduled for today on the Maine College of Engineering, Computing and Information Science (MCECIS) was postponed until the July meeting. The additional time allows for consideration of multiple reports from the faculty MCECIS Working Groups just finalized and received late last week as part of the MCECIS resolution and next steps in MCECIS implementation. The college, a signature project of the UMS TRANSFORMS initiative, is backed with $75 million from an overall $240 million investment in Maine’s public universities from the Harold Alfond Foundation and requires UMS to secure $75 million in matching funds to leverage the Alfond Foundation investments.
Celebrating the legacies of outgoing presidents and board members
The board approved resolutions honoring Gardner, outgoing UMS trustee James Erwin, outgoing USM President Glenn Cummings and outgoing UMF President Edward Serna.
Gardner and Erwin both began their terms as trustees in September 2012, led it as chairmen and served on several committees. Erwin served as chair from 2017–21, and Gardner has chaired the board since 2021.
Serna, who joined UMF as its president in 2019, led the university through the COVID-19 pandemic and kicked off UMF Reimagined, developing a comprehensive assessment and strategic recommendations for the university by 2024. Since 2015, Cummings’ leadership helped USM set institutional records in out-of-state enrollment, receive national recognition for student retention improvement and achieve unprecedented philanthropic fundraising. Trustees also recognized Cummings’ work by authorizing the naming of the future courtyard outside the Portland Commons residence hall to be the “Dr. Glenn A. Cummings Courtyard.”
“The leadership, hard work and ingenuity of Mark, Jim, Glenn and Edward have greatly benefited our universities and positioned them for a bright future,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We were lucky to have them among our ranks, and they will be missed.”
Three incoming Trustees, recently appointed by Governor Janet Mills and confirmed by the Legislature, attended the two-day meeting: Patrick Flood, Donna Loring and Barbara Alexander. The three will replace Gardner, Erwin, and Trustee Tim Doak, respectively; Doak recently resigned his seat on the Board. Additionally, the Board approved its slate of officers for the 2022–23 year. Patricia “Trish” Riley will serve as the new board chair, and Lisa Marchese Eames will serve as the new vice chair.
Trustees also appointed Peter “Tony” Lewis from UMA as a student representative to the Board, and reappointed Clyde Mitchell from the UMF and Lisa Leduc from the UMPI as faculty representatives to the Board. Additionally, the Board approved a new title for Maine Law Dean Leigh Saufley, who will be President and Dean of Maine Law effective July 1, as well as the extension of UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy’s contract to June 30, 2025.
The next board meeting is scheduled for July 11.
About the University of Maine System
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.
In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.
A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.
Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.
The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.