USF implements budget cuts, salary reductions for senior leadership amid COVID-19 funding shortfall

The salary reduction plan is among a series of actions to support USF’s financial stewardship goals as well as meet the state’s 8.5% cut in state funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year as a result of COVID-19. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

As part of USF’s plan to compensate for an 8.5% reduction in state funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year due to COVID-19, the university will implement a series of budget cuts across campuses, including salary reductions for USF President Steven Currall and members of his leadership team. 

In a universitywide email Thursday, Currall announced that about 30 members of USF’s leadership team, ranging from senior vice president-level positions, vice presidents and deans, will be subject to a mandated salary cut of 6% to 10%, effective Oct. 2. Currall will take a voluntary 15% salary reduction, or $86,250, for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, reducing his base salary from $575,000 to $488,750. The cut will result in approximately $600,000 in savings for the remainder of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to USF spokesperson Adam Freeman.

The Board of Governors (BOG) advised all state universities in July to consider the 8.5% cut from their current budgets in state funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year as well as an additional 10% cut for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The financial impact caused by COVID-19 from March through Dec. 31 is estimated at $31 million.

The cuts will be implemented in two different phases to meet the mandated 8.5% cuts from state funds without negatively impacting the university’s operations, according to Currall. 

The first phase of the reduction plan will cut a total of $36.7 million in state-funded budgets. Among the cuts, $13.4 million will come from colleges, $4.9 million from academic support and $6.5 million from university business support.

Within the cuts from the university business support, $6.9 million will come from USF Health, $3.1 million from the St. Pete campus and $1.9 million from the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The reductions do not include auxiliary enterprises, according to Currall. Additional measures, including putting on hold new construction, renovation and deferred maintenance projects as well as refinancing debt at lower rates, have been or will be taken to “trim budgets and preserve liquidity.”

Currall said budgets across all three campuses – Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee – were reviewed as part of USF’s strategic renewal. From Sept. 17-28, budgets of more than 40 budgetary units were presented to a budget planning team of senior leaders for review.

“The individual dialogues with unit leaders reflected a fundamental principle set forth by President Currall that reductions would be made in alignment with the university’s strategic aspirations (e.g., to become a top-25 public research university),” according to USF’s website.

“During these meetings, the president and members of his leadership team gained additional insights regarding the mission-critical endeavors within each of the units. Other principles included focuses on student success and access, protecting the upward trajectory of USF research and creative activity and maintaining institutional excellence.”

Depending on how the state recovers from the financial impact caused by COVID-19, Currall said that further reductions in state funding could potentially be implemented. 

“These actions – while difficult – will help USF meet its budgetary goals that support strategic investments and a focus on further strengthening USF’s commitment to academic excellence,” Currall said in the email.