PORTLAND The University of Southern Maine has eliminated, left vacant or reduced the hours for 26 positions as part of a plan to provide more scholarships, address deferred maintenance and set aside money for likely pay increases for union workers.

In a memo to faculty, staff and student leaders, USM President Theodora Kalikow said the steps to save $4.4 million will help make the school “financially sustainable” and “a nimble and valued partner in the life of the region and state.”

Kalikow said USM is facing financial pressure like most colleges, and “these decisions are painful.”

The cuts were greeted with criticism by faculty, who say cutting academic positions hurts the university immediately and in the long run.

“We support student scholarships and we support doing maintenance, but when times are tough, when facing deficits, we just don’t think it’s prudent to cut the heart of the university,” said Matt Killmeier, chapter vice president of the union that represents faculty members, the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine.

He said maintenance has been deferred because the state’s share of support for the university has dropped.

Bob Caswell, the college’s spokesman, said the school plans to shift about $1.2 million into scholarships, use $1.5 million for maintenance and set aside $2.6 million for anticipated pay and benefit increases likely to be required when the school negotiates a new contract with its faculty and other unions.

Kalikow said the cuts free up about $4.4 million to cover the new expenses. About $3.1 million of that total is from salaries, wages and benefits, she said, and the rest is from savings in fuel and electricity, travel, supplies and services.

The cuts mean that 17 people currently working at the university won’t be working once the cuts go through, Caswell said. Four others will have their hours reduced. Two of the cuts involve vacant positions.

The university has about 1,300 employees.

The cuts include three positions in Kalikow’s office: the positions of chief operating officer and chief of staff were not filled and a staff associate’s position was cut last fall.

The college also eliminated the posts of director of the annual fund and director of institutional research and assessment. A budget analyst’s position was cut and three positions in the Office of Student Life were eliminated this week.

Kalikow said five fixed-length positions will not be renewed and the hours for four others are being reduced. Most of those positions deal with campus recreation and fitness programs.

In addition, two vacant positions — one in parking and transportation and one in health services — won’t be filled, and the budgets in the Department of Athletics and in the Office of Student Affairs are being reduced.

Fixed-length contracts for two lecturers, one in education and another in music education, are being cut and the position of a tenured professor of Russian is eliminated.

Kalikow said the university’s animal research facility has been closed and USM is talking with Maine Medical Research Institute about using its lab space as the need arises.

Finally, facilities staffs have been consolidated, which won’t result in layoffs, Kalikow said, but should lead to better operating efficiencies.

Kalikow said other decisions on positions being cut are coming, but she will hold off on public announcements until the people in those jobs have been notified.

All six campuses in the University of Maine System are facing budget pressures.

Gov. Paul LePage’s budget proposal for the two years starting July 1 calls for no funding increase for the university system, and the system’s board of trustees has frozen tuition.

– Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com