COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Budget cuts could return daily control of the Columbia campus to the University of Missouri system president once the incumbent chancellor retires next year, officials said Thursday.
Chancellor Richard Wallace, 67, will retire Aug. 31, 2004, eight years after taking reins of the four-campus system's flagship operation.
During the next 13 months, system President Elson Floyd said he will explore merging the chancellor's job with the presidency he assumed in January.
Floyd said he wanted to "create a university organization that is relevant to our times" -- a reference to sharp cuts in state funding for higher education.
Wallace told a packed hall his final year as chancellor will focus heavily on private fund raising while he shares administrative responsibilities.
A campus presence for almost 40 years, starting as an assistant professor of economics, Wallace rose through the ranks to the appointment in 1996 as interim chancellor after the firing of Charles Kiesler. He got the job permanently in 1997.
The university has four campuses -- in St. Louis, Rolla, Kansas City and the oldest and largest in Columbia, where the system president also has his office.
When the system was founded in 1963, Columbia was already under control of the late President Elmer Ellis, who retained direct campus oversight for about a year before naming a chancellor.
"I think we've got some real opportunities" with the discussion of again merging the presidency with the chancellor's job, Wallace said, "and I want to say at the outset, I'm excited about that."
Floyd said the state-funded portion of the university budget has been reduced by $126 million in the past two years and is being sliced another $32.4 million in the budget year that started July 1.
"We have very few degrees of freedom" because of the reduced funding, Floyd said, so merging the two key jobs "is clearly one of the options we are considering."
No one was able to say how much money might be saved. Wallace is paid $212,920 a year plus a $25,000 housing allowance. Floyd makes $350,000 a year.
Wallace said in an interview that savings "could be substantial" -- and that some mergers of system and campus operations, such as a computer technology system, have already happened and are projected to save millions.
The university's governing board of curators, in a closed session Tuesday, approved a resolution authorizing Floyd to take over the Columbia chancellor's duties during the next year if he deems it "necessary and appropriate and in the best interest of the University ... ."
That resolution also authorized Floyd to make any administrative changes he thinks are appropriate in consolidating management, functions and jobs between the university system and the Columbia campus.
Floyd said it would be a "year of transition," with savings poured back into what he called the "core academic mission" of the university.