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Legislative budget cuts impact College of Eastern Utah

College interim president Mike King speaks at CEU's 70th Anniversary.

The Utah Legislature's recent budget cuts will impact agencies statewide, including the college in Price.

Last week, College of Eastern Utah interim president Mike King announced that the legislative actions would reduce CEU's budget by 4 percent for an amount totaling $763,200.

"The Legislature and governor needed to find $272 million and looked to higher education for $65 million of that.

While CEU's share of the total may seem small in comparison, this will have serious impacts on budgets both this year and next," explained King.

The current year cuts would likely be funded from the Price campus line item, continued the CEU interim president. The college maintains funds from prior years in the campus line item to cover potential budget shortfalls.

"Next year, all of our line items will be facing a 4 percent base reduction," indicated King.

The college's budget has four line items: the Price campus, the San Juan campus, CEU Prehistoric Museum and the educationally disadvantaged program.

Associate provost and director at the San Juan facility Guy Denton highlighted the impact of holding the campus in Blanding harmless from current year cuts.

"To have the Price campus help us this year is critical. Our smaller budget reduces flexibility to make such large adjustments without advanced notice," pointed out Denton.

CEU began the year with $19 million in tax funds, including a one-time appropriation for $600,000 that will not be part of the fiscal year 2010 base, noted college officials. The situation will mean that, when the Legislature convenes in January, the college will be facing a budget of $1.3 million less than current year levels.

The college's proportion of tax funds to tuition places CEU in a more volatile position that other schools, according to the officials. Less than 20 percent of the college's budget comes from tuition compared to other schools that collect 30 percent or even 40 percent of the institutions' funds from students.

When the college receives increases for salaries, the Legislature uses a ratio of tax funds to tuition, meaning CEU students pay less for compensation than people attending other institutions.

When cuts are made, the Legislature does not seek to directly decrease tuition funds, focusing only on general tax revenues for a reduction.

"That means CEU is seeing a 4 percent reduction on 85 percent of its budget, where other schools see a 4 percent reduction on only 60 percent or 70 percent," said Robyn Sheriff, CEU's budget director.

Vice president for finance and administration Kevin Walthers identified a positive aspect in the budget cutting process.

"The irony is that we have worked so hard to get CEU in a position to have flexibility in the budget and, as soon as we do, we lose it. The positive is that, for the first time in many years, CEU is in a position to deal with the cuts without needing special help from the Legislature or other institutions," noted Walthers.

Administrators will begin preparing for the FY-2010 budget through meetings with the CEU Senate, a group comprised of representatives of campus faculty, staff and administration.

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