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story.lead_photo.caption The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Little Rock campus is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences expects to avoid a deficit in the coming fiscal year after announcing job cuts in January, according to budget documents presented Wednesday to University of Arkansas System trustees.

"Over the course of the last several months, beginning back in January, we have eliminated about $60 million worth of costs from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences budget," Bill Bowes, UAMS senior vice chancellor for finance and administration and chief financial officer, told the UA System trustees.

About 600 jobs have been cut since January, Bowes said after the meeting of the board of trustees. Bowes said no further reductions are planned.

The new budget calls for some revenue growth while also cutting expenses compared with the previous year's budget. Total expenses for the coming fiscal year have been set at $1.566 billion, down $17.6 million from the previous year's budget for operations.

UAMS in January had about 10,900 employees across the state. It operates as a medical school while providing care for patients at a hospital and various other care sites.

The 10-member University of Arkansas System board of trustees met Wednesday at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, with a committee voting to approve the UAMS budget along with budgets for other campuses. The two-day meeting ends today with the full board considering actions taken by committees.

The balanced budget is a change from recent years, as UAMS has operated on a deficit budget for three of the past four years.

Stephanie Gardner, interim chancellor for UAMS, praised members of the faculty and staff, who she said were told back in October about a need to cut costs.

"There have been a lot of early mornings, late nights, people taking on extra workloads to make this work," Gardner told trustees. She said she is "so optimistic about what we will be facing in this next fiscal year versus what we've been through in this last one."

A key portion of the budget involves revenue from patient services. Bowes told trustees that for the coming budget, "we took a much more conservative approach to our revenue estimates."

Instead of a budget like last year's, which called for a 5 percent increase in patient revenue, the coming budget calls for "a more modest 2% rate," according to budget documents.

Last year, trustees approved a budget with an approximately $39.2 million deficit, according to documents prepared for trustees in 2017.

The UAMS fiscal year ends June 30, and Bowes said after Wednesday's meeting that UAMS expects "to be close to that number."

But in January, job cuts were announced in response to what officials described as an anticipated $72.3 million deficit.

"The rough year that we've had at UAMS and the issues we've had before the board of trustees, we've kind of questioned ourselves as to why we approved the budget we did last year,"said John Goodson, a UA System trustee and a Texarkana attorney.

Goodson said the board has paid increasing attention to UAMS. "There's a benefit sometimes to bad situations, and I think we've seen that," Goodson said, later thanking Gardner, Bowes and others for their work.

Gardner said UAMS received a check last week from Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office for $5 million in what's considered state "rainy day" funds.

"We believe that that's really an endorsement," Gardner said.

In a statement, Hutchinson said the $5 million "has broad legislative support, and I approved it."

Hutchinson said that while the allocation "does not address all the financial concerns, it is a significant amount of support and should provide the new chancellor, once he comes on board, the opportunity to address a longer term plan, financially, for UAMS."

UA System trustees in January approved the selection of Cam Patterson, a senior vice president and chief operating officer at Weill-Cornell Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, as the next UAMS chancellor.

Bowes told trustees that about $45 million in infrastructure needs has been set aside for now, but that UAMS will seek to address infrastructure and maintenance concerns in fiscal 2019.

Metro on 05/24/2018

Print Headline: UAMS financial woes healing, trustees told; Cost, job cuts right fix, officials say

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