Budget cuts at CEU remain in question
The state budget crunch being generated by falling tax revenues is making its way to the College of Eastern Utah.
On Monday, interim CEU president Mike King met with about 40 faculty members to discuss a letter to all non-tenured faculty concerning the non-renewal of contracts.
During the discussion, King also talked about what the state was asking of CEU as the governor and Legislature continue to put forth proposals for balancing Utah's budget.
In an interview on Dec. 15, King said the non-renewal of contract letters delivered to some faculty members was a matter of policy, but nothing was certain.
"These cuts and what the state is asking of us has happened very quickly," explained King. "College policy dictates that, if we are not going to renew a faculty member's contract for the coming fiscal or if we might not renew it, we have to have letters to them by Dec. 15 of the year before. That is what we have done because what the Legislature will do as far as funding goes for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is still up in the air."
CEU officials knew there was going to be budget cuts. But no one initially saw how large the cuts could be.
The lack of revenue at the state level always trickles down to colleges, school districts and public entities.
"We had to put the letter out," said King. "But we doubt that all those people will not have contracts come July 1, 2009. I hate having to do this shotgun approach of informing all of them, but that is what we have to do until the Legislature meets in its regular session and decides how much money higher education is going to get."
However, the current fiscal year is not unaffected by the cuts.
In the fall, state officials said they would be asking colleges to make a 4 percent reduction in budgets for the present fiscal year as well as next. The cut would have been about $763,000 annually.
But in late November, the state analysts suggested that the schools would have to look at about $915,000 or an additional cut of approximately 5 percent.
Combined, the cuts add up to about $1.7 million. The cuts would come out of CEU's current budget of slightly more than $19,0000.
At that time, the college's administration started to look at budgets to see what they could cut and began to bring in the managers to look at CEU's departments.
The committee was already at work on the current budget and next year's financial guidelines when another cut was announced at the Utah Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 5.
The latest cut came as a result of analysts' forecasts for next year. The forecasts showed major drops in state revenues.
Consequently, officials were told at the board meeting they could be looking at 7.5 percent in lieu of the 5 percent on top of the 4 percent already put in place.
The situation meant the total amount of money to cut would be $1.37 million on top of the original $763,000.
It was announced that, next year, the state may require an additional 15 percent, which would mean another $2.75 million on top of the original $763,000.
King said the committee worked to find funds to get through the current year without having to make major cuts to staff.
The members looked at operating budgets, hourly accounts, travel budgets, vacant positions that are funded, but not manned and a number of other places where the college could skim off some money to make up what the school had to give back to the state.
"Fortunately, we were able to find enough money to get us through this year without laying hardly anyone off," noted King, mentioning that a few temporary and part-time positions will have to be eliminated.
The interim president also said the college had some surplus revenue that carried over from last year to use. But next year, the surplus money will not exist and it appears that the budget cuts will be much deeper.
"Next year, we will have to be careful because we don't want to jeopardize the future of the college," pointed out King. "But we can't actually cut strategically for next year until we know what the legislature is going to come up with for our budgets."
The interim president indicated he was concerned that, because the letters had to be sent out, some CEU employees felt the administration was targeting faculty.
"We had to send those letters out because policy directs us to do so," pointed out King. "But I want everyone to know that we are not targeting faculty because those went out. Positions of all kinds in all departments, staffs and even in administration will be up for review when we have to look at what may actually have to be cut next year. Many of those who got letters will be offered contracts once we see what the numbers show sometime in mid-February."
What will happen is based on many factors, including special early retirement packages that some employees may choose to accept as well as a reduction in operational costs, explained the interim president.
He also said tuition at the college will go up next year, which will bring in additional dollars.
Currently, the Utah Legislature is in a quandary as to what to do about revenue and expenditures.
Last week, the state legislators met and suggested that everyone take a 15 percent cut next year,.
But Gov. Jon Huntsman has been somewhat more optimistic.
The governor suggested that current cuts be limited to 1.5 percent while, next year, no decreases greater than 7 percent be leveled against state agencies.
Huntsman also indicated that he would like to use money from the state's $300 million rainy day fund to help state agencies absorb some of the budget cuts.
With the decisions made, the college will continue to operate pretty much as usual for the rest of the fiscal year, noted CEU's interim president.