Wismer: The Mil Levy IS Important For UNM-LA And For Los Alamos County

Director, Business Operations
UNM-Los Alamos

Many individuals considering the upcoming special school election are asking UNM-LA what happened after the failed mil election in 2013. What financial impacts did the campus sustain and how did it respond? Providing that information may help frame the challenge UNM-LA is facing moving forward as it continues to serve the Los Alamos community.

After the 2013 election, UNM-LA was faced with difficult decisions to determine which programs and services were essential to UNM-LA and which ones could continue to be supported by the anticipated revenue sources. Based on that careful review, the campus underwent a 15 percent budget reduction and reallocation of all resources to those identified programs and services deemed essential in meeting our mission of preparing students to transfer, creating pathways to careers, and serving those with a passion for lifelong learning. It is important to note that the 15 percent reduction came after years of belt tightening that included eliminating campus functions and outsourcing other services to create cost savings.

The campus reached a point that any further reductions could not avoid impacting faculty and staff. At that time the campus had a core number of faculty and staff of 53 individuals and positions, some less than 1.0 FTE (full time equivalent) and it was determined that 11 individuals (or positions) would be impacted in the reduction plan. That meant 21 percent of our core workforce either had their FTE reduced or their position eliminated. The same was true for programs and services. Vacant faculty positions in Computer Science and Engineering were not filled and the decision was made to use adjunct faculty in these disciplines. Staffing hours in the library were reduced, limiting operating hours for our students. Staffing in student services, information technology, facility maintenance, the Dean’s office, and a grant coordinator/writer were either reduced or eliminated. These actions were necessary to build a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition to implementing the reductions, concerted effort was placed on securing grants to help offset the declining resources. Faculty, in addition to their existing workloads, submitted grant proposals to secure resources that augmented our dwindling resources. Not all proposals were successful, but some were funded and helped to create temporary bridges to continue essential programs at UNM-LA.

The challenge UNM-LA faces is to continue the essential programs and expand key programs in serving our community. As a two-year institution, we are better suited to respond quickly to identified needs in our community as the external influences change and the focus shifts. Recently, in partnership with the Los Alamos Fire Department, UNM-LA implemented the Fire Science and Emergency Management programs to allow personnel in Los Alamos to further their education, obtain degrees and national certifications. Another example of responding to an emerging need is the Personal Care Attendant and Certified Nursing Assistant programs that are new additions to the UNM-LA coursework, all in response to needs in Los Alamos and northern New Mexico.

Sustaining the work at UNM-LA cannot be based on a revolving door of one-time funds or time limited grant proposals. A one mil increase would allow a recurring base for many of the continuing programs at risk, restore faculty and staff positions that have eroded over the last few years and allow the campus to expand offerings to the community, based on strategic initiatives.