UNF plans for additional cuts

Spinnaker

Gov. Charlie Crist informed all state agencies June 12 that in addition to the 3.3 percent cut for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, he was going to be holding back 4 percent of the allocated budget.

To cover the 3.3 percent cut, UNF administrators decided to lessen non-academic travel, eliminate 25 faculty positions, some summer classes and limit enrollment. To cover the extra 4 percent, UNF did not have to do anything – rather it covered the costs with money saved from 2008-2009 reserves.

“We pulled 4 percent of [the budget] out and locked it up and set it aside for a rainy day,” UNF President John Delaney said.

To explain the concept of reserves, Delaney created the analogy of students receiving money from their parents at the begining of the school year, saving some of it and  having to use the savings on car repairs at the end of the year.

The costs of UNF’s “car repairs” cleaned out the reserves.

About $7 million UNF saved at the beginning of the year is now being used to cover the 4 percent Gov. Crist has decided to hold back, said Shari Shuman, vice president of Administrative Affairs.

“What we’re doing is we’re planning for the worst-case scenario,” she said about the upcoming 2010-2011 fiscal budget. “We’re working on it now trying to figure out how we’re going to get through the
next year.”

The plans include holding non-critical positions that become available, reviewing purchase orders and programs and looking at other mechanisms to reduce spending, Shuman said.

Janet Owen, vice president of Governmental Relations, checks monthly Florida revenue reports in an effort to predict what might happen, she said.

“I take a look every month when the revenues report comes out to see where [we are], [if we are] worse off than what was predicted or [if we are] right about the same,” Owen said. “Obviously what the universities are doing at this point is watching carefully what the revenues are to see if the governor has enough in reserves so they don’t have to come back to cut.”

Gov. Crist is holding back close to a billion dollars from all state agencies, and he has the authority to take an additional $1 billion if he feels it is necessary, which is why Owen thinks it’s essential to keep track of the revenue reports, she said.

“We’re clearly in better shape than everyone else in the state from the expense side,” Delaney said. “We’ve been able to get ahead of it by predicting [and using] the reserves.”

Other state universities including Florida State University and the University of Florida have laid people off, shut down academic programs, eliminated a college or two – measures UNF hasn’t had to implement, Owen said.

By putting money away, UNF has made it possible to limit the effects on current students, focusing on limiting enrollment rather than cutting programs or raising the faculty-student ratio, Shuman said.

“It’s crazy times right now… [but] we’ll get through it,” she said.

By law, Gov. Crist can’t continually hold the funds.

He will eventually have to pass a legislative act allowing the additional cut, but Owen said it probably won’t happen until after the elections take place.

E-mail Rebecca McKinnon at [email protected]