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CEU could make more dollar cuts

Sun Advocate publisher

While not yet mandated in any kind of law, and two weeks before the legislature begins their regular session, lawmakers are telling colleges throughout the state that they not only need to find more money to take out of their budgets for the present school year, but must also find even larger amounts to cut from this year's total in the 2010-2011 school sessions.

Last week, the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee of the Legislature held a pre-session meeting to discuss the impacts of those cuts to the various schools; the College of Eastern Utah is among them.

"We were to provide some general information about our mission and then explain how the cuts impact our ability to perform our mission," said interim CEU president Mike King, in an e-mail to college personnel last week. "The subcommittee tasked each institution with preparing a report to bring to them next Wednesday, indicating how we will deal with the issue."

Each school made a presentation, including CEU. King's PowerPoint presentation included a history of the school, how it serves the area and the state, kinds of educational opportunities the school provides, a breakdown of student numbers including the diversity of the school and the enrollment numbers for the fall 2009 semester, the economic impact of the college on the local area, what cuts have already been made and how additional cuts could affect the students and the community.

King described in detail how the school has already reduced a total of 40 positions since 2008, with professional and classified ranks losing 33 positions. Executive staff was reduced by three positions and faculty cuts took out four positions. These cuts add up to 15 percent of 2008 staffing levels.

He pointed out that, in the past, the school has been able to find money in funds that didn't impact personnel positions as much as they could have, but that the additional cuts will almost certainly have to come entirely from reducing personnel numbers.

"A 4 percent base budget reduction ($257,000) mid-year would be devastating," he told the committee.

King said that the report they will submit by Wednesday will be based on two charges the committee gave them. First, they must address a one-time cut of 4 percent of the school's base budget the present year. King says this amounts to a $611,000 cut as compared to the $354,000 cut that was already imposed by the governor. That makes the total an additional $257,000 more to cut.

"We have been able to find the $354,000 primarily through vacant positions, severances, and reductions in force," stated King, in the correspondence. "Coming up with the additional $257,000 will require us to dig deeper."

Second, the committee reminded the college administrators of the ongoing cut of 5 percent to their base budgets for next year. That would mean a reduction of $764,000 on top of the $1.5 million the college is already striving to reach.

"Between now and next Wednesday, we'll be preparing a very general list of cuts, totaling the $764,000 for next year," stated King. "We hope the legislature is just posturing, and that next year's budget will be more closely aligned with what the governor has proposed. We sincerely hope that the legislature will keep cuts to a minimum."

During the presentation, King told legislators that a $1.5 million cut in 2011 would certainly eliminate more positions, possibly eliminate more programs that have been discontinued, reduce the scholarship budget and increase tuition, a step that many in the area fear, considering how hard it is for many students to pay for school as it is.

The actual revenue numbers the legislature will have to deal with will be released at the end of February.

Then, the lawmakers will have a better understanding of whether additional cuts will actually be needed. King stated that, until that time, the college will submit a plan for the additional 5 percent cut that they have been directed to submit.

Simply put, the college's overall budget has decreased dramatically over the past two years. The school has gone from a $19 million dollar budget at the beginning of the 2008 fiscal year, to what appears will be a $15.2 million dollar budget next year.

As for the merger, King said, during a Thursday interview, that the move is independent of the budget process, because the school is not part of Utah State University until the legislature makes it so. And, money for CEU, in that situation, will also be appropriated accordingly. He said that after the merger happens, the local campus budget will be a "single line item" within the Utah State budget when it comes to appropriations.

King stated that those in charge of the college are doing everything in their power to minimize impacts to personnel and programs.

"However, additional cuts will no doubt have impacts on both," concluded King.

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