AUGUSTA – The University of Maine System has made great strides in cutting expenses to avoid a $43 million deficit, Chancellor Richard Pattenaude told the Legislature on Wednesday.

But while it has become more efficient, the seven-campus system still lacks sufficient funding, Pattenaude said in his annual address to the House and Senate.

John Fitzsimmons, the Maine Community College System’s president, and William Brennan, Maine Maritime Academy’s president, also gave their annual addresses to lawmakers.

More than two years ago, with the economy struggling, the university system made a financial projection showing that it would have a $43 million shortfall over four years unless it changed the way it did business, Pattenaude said. In response, the system’s trustees approved a strategy called New Challenges, New Directions.

“Like many businesses, we have trimmed our work force and now have 7 percent fewer employees. We finished last year with expenditures $5 million below the prior year,” Pattenaude said. The system also halved the unfunded liability for its retirees’ health care.

University employees have gone two to three years without raises, and administration has been cut back.

Pattenaude said the system’s lack of sufficient funding “will not stop us from making progress, and that’s a promise.”

He said the university system has tempered tuition increases, posting its smallest increase — 4.8 percent for undergraduates from Maine — in eight years. He said low tuition encourages student retention, more graduations and economic development.

Like Pattenaude, Fitzsimmons expressed gratitude for Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal, which would continue current funding levels despite the state’s fiscal challenges.

Fitzsimmons said the community college system is making progress accommodating the thousands of Maine students who are turned away even though they are qualified to enroll. For example, it is securing space for a campus at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station and negotiating to use buildings at the Goodwill-Hinckley School in Hinckley, whose core operations as a residential school for at-risk youths ended last year.

Brennan said Maine Maritime Academy is “in a strong and vibrant position” with enrollment at capacity, a record, and 90 percent of its graduates finding jobs — some in the six-figure range — within a half-year of graduating.