Florida lawmakers approved a $2.8 billion package of budget cuts, reserve runs and fee increases, ending their 10-day special session Jan. 14.
Educational spending will feel the brunt of the measure with a $466 million cut and a 4 percent decrease to the state university system – reducing spending by $140 per-student.
The state decided to cut non-recurring dollars, which gave universities more time to evaluate the 2009-2010 budget, said Shari Shuman, vice president of Administration and Finance.
“The state’s economy is affecting all areas of industry,” said Janet Owen, director of Governmental Affairs. “I was competing for money against other lobbyists from other sectors of the economy, like health care and the environment. No one is immune to getting cut.”
But unlike other areas, the state universities provide a way out of economic troubles because schools prepare people for better jobs and conduct research, which leads to innovations, Owen said.
UNF has made significant efforts to prepare for the financial drought, Shuman said.
“The university has been well aware and has been following the movement of the legislation,” Shuman said. “We have been planning scenarios since summer to compensate for the budget cut.”
In the interim, the budget will be funded by previously unallocated funds from general revenue – $3 million – and the Lottery Trust Fund – $1.7 million, Shuman said.
But Gov. Charlie Crist still has the final say over the severity of each department’s spending cuts.
Crist received the proposed budget Jan. 14 and has 14 days to decide if he will use his lineitem veto power, specifically to the cuts in education, said Sterling Ivey, press secretary for Crist’s office.
There is a strong possibility for further cuts later in March, which could drastically affect the 2009-2010 school year, said Dwayne Smith, senior vice provost for the University of South Florida.
USF has already lost approximately $52 million in revenue since 2007, and with the rumored cuts of 10 percent, USF would have to do some serious soul searching to cut the budget to match revenue, Smith said.
And University of Florida President Bernie Machen told the faculty Senate to expect another $75 million in budget cuts next year on top of the $47-million cut this year, said Janine Sikes, director of Communications and Integrations for UF.
During times of budget cuts, universities and the state are all too quick to supplement funds at the expense of students, Student Body President John Barnes said.
“In the economic state our country is in, the state legislature and specifically, the university, can’t put the responsibility on the back of the students,” Barnes said. “Every time the budget is cut, there is talk of raising fees. This is not the answer; we can’t continue to place an ever growing burden on the backs of the students.”
E-mail James Cannon II at [email protected]