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UB URGED TO SLASH SPENDING

Members of the University at Buffalo Council, among the area's most influential business leaders, Friday urged UB to slash expenses in wake of the economic fallout of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Council members prodded UB President William R. Greiner to cut next year's budget by 10 percent, and to seek salary concessions from professors and other campus staff.

"The whole financial community is shutting down in New York," said councilor Gerald S. Lippes, a lawyer and the chairman of the board of directors of Kaleida Health. "I would be figuring on a very austere budget."

UB will have to make tough planning decisions, said another council member, Randall L. Clark, chairman of the board of Dunn Tire and chairman of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

"You've got to figure out how to keep the doors open," he said.

Clark and Lippes spoke during Friday's meeting of the University Council, an advisory panel whose members also include chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs, chairman of the Delaware North Cos. and owner of the NHL's Boston Bruins.

The meeting ranged into a far broader discussion of economic, political and national issues than is customary at University Council sessions.

It began with a presentation, rich with pictures of the devastation at ground zero in Manhattan, by Michel Bruneau, the deputy director of UB's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. Bruneau was part of a team that studied site damage.

Council members were acutely interested in Bruneau's work. Eventually, the discussion turned from engineering issues at the World Trade Center to the fiscal implications of the attack.

Several said their experiences in the business world over the past five weeks make it clear that the financial and political fallout from the attacks will extend well into 2002.

Clark said Dunn Tire's sales were down 16 percent in September.

Traffic on the Peace Bridge is down 30 percent, said council member Victor A.
Rice, a business executive who said this downturn was discussed at a community meeting Thursday.

They urged Greiner to slash spending at UB.

Greiner said an immediate financial concern for the university is money owed to campus employees as part of raises negotiated by the state and unions.

After the meeting, Robert J. Wagner, UB's senior vice president, said the raises added $13 million to the school's budget this year and will add $9 million to the 2002-03 budget.

Jacobs and other council members urged Greiner to press leaders of the employee unions to accept salary concessions as the potential for layoffs looms.

Greiner wasn't optimistic Friday that such an effort would succeed, and he didn't promise council members that he would try to find ways to slash UB's budget.

He didn't offer as gloomy a view of the future as the council members.

"At this point, we don't know what, if any, impact will befall the university," Greiner said.

This discussion came three days after he unveiled plans for $550 million in new spending on academic construction at UB and for the hiring of 300 new faculty by 2009.

Council members also warned that UB likely will not see as many of its priorities funded by the state.

Referring to the spending approvals added to the state budget by individual legislators, Lippes said, "There are no member items in this budget. They're gone."

The university had counted on $75 million from the state to help establish a high-tech Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics.

Earlier this week, UB Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi said she has received conflicting reports from legislators as to whether the center will receive money in the state budget.

The university already is seeking federal aid for the project from the local congressional delegation, she said.

Jacobs on Friday said UB officials shouldn't hold their breath on money for the center.

"We'll have to wait a long time to find out if this will be funded, I think," he said.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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