A town hall meeting was held in the SUB on Thursday to discuss UNM’s budget shortfall and potential strategies to address it.

In order for the University to cover needed expenses, officials will implement a mid-year recall of funds previously dedicated for certain University areas for the year.

“This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced, to take money out of a budget that has already been allocated,” President Bob Frank said.

UNM will see a total recall of $15.5 million — $9.8 million from Main Campus, $4.7 million from Health Sciences and $1 million from branch campuses.

Academic Affairs will see $4.56 million in cuts, which accounts for 2.7 percent of its total budget.

“We will look at units that have reserves and take about half of those,” said UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah.

Four cuts in the last six years have caused the University to tighten their budget and consider more strategic budget balancing so they are not dependent on the legislature’s actions, he said.

According to their website, the Office of Academic Affairs is responsible for all aspects of the academic mission, including research, instruction and academic personnel.

According to a report presented at the town hall, the state had a net loss of $617 million in 2015-16. New Mexico had $5.69 billion in revenues and $6.31 billion in expenses.

This year has seen $5.77 billion in revenues and $6.23 billion in expenses, resulting in a net loss of $458 million.

The report mentioned that last year’s budget shortfall has left state reserves at $131 million.

“Our approach is to ask each area to address how they are going to handle these rescissions and work downward with their units,” Frank said.

The University will focus on this year’s cuts through consolidation and reorganization of departments in order to create more efficient workloads, Frank said.

Through smarter collaborative services, staff can share responsibilities that are the same across campus, such as accounting and IT, he said.

The recently implemented hiring freeze will create savings to help support the budget, Frank said. Without the freeze, challenges would arise when the fiscal year ends.

“We prioritized not laying off employees, which means we may not fill positions once they are empty — but we will protect people still in their jobs,” he said.

The University relies on three main revenue channels, Harris said. Tuition and fees, and funding from the state has faced challenges over the last few years due to consistent decreases in enrollment and state funding.

Regents agree with most students in that they do not favor raising tuition and fees, he said, which could also cause a continued decline in student enrollment.

Most of the University’s expenses are for staff and faculty, he said. The soft hiring freeze allows them to evaluate staff positions for their need, so that key positions can still be filled.

“Our hopes hinge on the hiring freeze. We believe it will yield a significant savings in current spending that will allow UNM to be in balance at the end of the fiscal year,” Harris said.

Cutting high-level salaries were not discussed at the town hall meeting.

The restructuring comes from vacant staff positions not being filled, with extra duties re-assigned to remaining staff members.

According to the budget report, UNM regent’s administration will be taking a 15 percent pay cut for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

A mandate from the state legislature’s recent special session for a five percent budget cut for all public universities will also be put in effect.

The legislature attributed New Mexico’s budget problems to the troubles facing the state’s oil and gas market, which has contributed to weakened tax revenue projections. Gross receipts, compensating tax, corporate income tax and severance tax revenues also declined as various other sectors “grew at a very slow pace.”

“In the future some of us may have to shoulder more work, but the main thing is we will still be here,” said Executive Vice President for Administration, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer David W. Harris. “As long as we work together, we will do the best that we can.”

Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @nmckibben92.