Saving Up

Administrators tout budgetary progress, freeze salaries

A piggy bank

As the global economy begins to recover from the shocks of the 2008 financial crisis, Duke administrators have begun to reassess the university's budgetary situation.

In September 2008, the trustees approved a three-year plan to solidify the university's financial base. At that time, administrators estimated that Duke faced a deficit of as much as $125 million for fiscal year 2012. To address the shortfall, administrators offered early-retirement packages to employees, curtailed hiring, suspended salary increases for employees earning more than $50,000, and began to conduct a university-wide cost-cutting program.

President Richard H. Brodhead declared that the university's actions were beginning to bear fruit in a letter sent to Duke employees in March. The early-retirement incentives and hiring policies have trimmed the workforce by more than 450 positions, obviating the need for large-scale job cuts, Brodhead said. The steps taken, on the whole, have amounted to a savings of more than $50 million.

Coupled with modest gains in the financial markets, which have reduced the estimated budget shortfall to $100 million, this means that in the first year of the three-year recovery plan, Duke has accounted for more than half of the projected savings needed.

But Brodhead cautioned against loosening strictures in the immediate future. For fiscal year 2011, base salaries for faculty and staff members will remain unchanged. Duke will make a one-time payment of $1,000 to all employees who are eligible for benefits and earn $80,000 or less a year.

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