UM regents limit '92 budget request Board's spending plan raises tuition 4 percent

November 08, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Four months ago, Donald N. Langenberg became chancellor of the University of Maryland System and eagerly prepared to lead the institution into a golden era of national eminence.

But that goal already has derailed slightly, largely because an unanticipated state fiscal crisis carved $39 million from this year's UM budget and caused sparks to fly between the new chancellor and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Yesterday, yet another budget crisis loomed for Langenberg as the UM Board of Regents voted to hold the line on spending for fiscal 1992, despite complaints from most of the UM presidents that the $1 billion operating budget was too austere.

The regents agreed to forward the no-increase budget for next year to Schaefer, along with a supplemental request for another $75 million.

But the regents rebuffed Langenberg's proposal to raise tuition 6 percent and instead approved a tuition increase of 4 percent.

Despite the unexpected problems he has encountered, the unflappable Langenberg said in an interview yesterday that he is happy he left the chancellor's post at the University of Chicago for UM this summer.

He said he is spending much time studying accounting ledgers and speaking to the 11 UM presidents about reshaping the Systemwide Plan. Barely a year old, the plan is predicated on multimillion-dollar budget enhancements that now appear to be pipe dreams.

At the same time he is reshaping the plan, Langenberg is trying to bury the hatchet with Schaefer.

Although Langenberg declined to comment on the incident, sources say he is still smarting from a spat he had with Schaefer earlier this fall over the governor's order that UM cut costs by 6 percent systemwide in response to an unexpected state revenue shortfall.

When Langenberg publicly questioned what effect such a cut would have on UM's momentum, the governor lambasted him privately, a witness said. The two have had a chilly relationship since then, sources said.

Langenberg appears to have accepted the budget cut. "This is not something that warrants getting emotional about," he said. "It warrants dealing with it as best as we can in the scope of the entire system."

Since early October, Langenberg and the 11 UM presidents have been on a fact-finding mission, sorting through the Systemwide Plan approved by the regents last September in search of goals and missions that can be eliminated or delayed.

So far, there is a hiring freeze and plans are under way on most campuses for larger classes and fewer faculty positions. Salary increases may soon be frozen, too. Purchases of library books, computers and other equipment are being deferred.

Plans to increase enrollment growth are being shelved because of the faculty hiring freeze and, in a strange twist, College Park's plan to reduce the size of its freshman class has been halted because the university needs more tuition and fee revenues.

The changes have caused a ripple of low morale among UM administrators, many of whom detailed for the regents exactly how the recession and the state cuts were affecting them.

"There is not a lot of fat in this system," Langenberg said. "It is not easy to cut -- it's a question of greater or lesser priorities."

One of the chancellor's greatest challenges will be to lobby the General Assembly next winter for UM priorities and funding.

But Langenberg acknowledged that he is a political novice and that working with a legislature will be a new experience. He said he has not yet identified which legislators are friends of higher education.

"I have not been through a legislative process, so I can't speak on the basis of long experience," he said. "So far, our legislative issues are to defend to the governor our budget proposals for the UM system."

Langenberg described his working relationship with the UM presidents as productive.

One UM president described Langenberg as a good listener who "is still in the stage where he's getting his thoughts together, but he's making other people think, too."

Still, it remains to be seen how Langenberg will soothe the worries of other UM officials who question the direction of new system now that fiscal resources are drying up.

"There is a lot of disappointment that the hopes and dreams of a year or so ago now are going to be put on hold," said UM College Park President William Kirwan. "Our programs will inevitably slow down. These cuts are real and will be harmful to our progress, but we will maintain."

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