Departments absorb budget cuts now, worry about funding for the future

Kari Petrie

Following the advice of University President Robert Bruininks, several nonacademic department heads said they plan to shield students from the effects of mandated institution-wide budget cuts.

Last week, Bruininks sent a memo to University leaders detailing each department’s fiscal responsibility as part of a $25 million state funding reduction suggested by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Department heads said they are concerned current cuts will be a foundation for further funding reductions, given the state’s estimated $4.2 billion deficit for the 2004-05 fiscal years.

“Maybe we aren’t anguishing over this cut as much as we normally would,” University Provost Christine Maziar said. “It’s not because there isn’t pain in this cut, it’s because of anticipation of the challenge we’ll be faced within the biennium.”

The University’s athletics department must cut $207,741 from its $46 million budget, said Athletics Director Joel Maturi. He said the increased revenue from the women’s basketball team, along with the elimination of administrative travel, will help address the department’s budget reduction.

Maturi added that he plans to leave the department’s senior associate athletics director position unfilled after Jeff Schemmel leaves for Arizona State University.

“Quite frankly, we are more concerned with what we are going to do next year,” Maturi said. “Our cut will be far more than $200,000, and that is a concern.”

According to the University’s Office of Budget and Finance, the Campus Life department must cut $280,636 from its $45 million budget.

Lincoln Kallsen, budget director for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said offices affected by the cuts include University Counseling and Consulting as well as the Student Activities Office.

Kallsen said each office director was reminded of Bruininks’ insistence on making students a priority.

Programs such as the student unions, Boynton Health Service, University Student Legal Services and recreational sports are exempted from cuts, Kallsen said. These services are not supported by state operation and management funds, he added.

Officials from University Services and the Board of Regents said they have not decided where their cuts will be made.

University Chief of Staff Kathy Brown said the president’s office will not fill two open positions to meet its $75,084 budget cut.

This state funding reduction comes less than a year after lawmakers took back $23.6 million from the University to help balance the budget.

Maziar said last spring’s cuts were easier to deal with because the University was given more time to address them.

The University also had more options, including deferred investments and tuition increases, she said.

Maziar said this round of cuts could be small compared to any future cuts.

“If this is the first shoe dropping, then there’s a Doc Martin ready to come,” she said.

Kari Petrie welcomes comments at [email protected]