The state budget crunch that is being generated by falling tax revenues is finally making its way into Carbon county and the College of Eastern Utah and the results may not be pretty next year.
On Monday morning CEU's Interim President Mike King met with about 40 faculty members to discuss a letter that has gone out to all non-tenured faculty concerning the non-renewal of contracts. During that discussion he also talked about what the state was asking of CEU, as the governor and legislature continue to put forth proposals for how the state will balance the budget for this year and next.
In an interview that afternoon King says that the non-renewal of contract letters that went out 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," said King. "College policy dictates that if we are not going to renew a faculty members 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."
While CEU officials have known there was going to be a cut this year and possibly similar one for next year, no one initially saw how big those cuts could be. The lack of revenue at the state always trickles down to the colleges, school districts and other state entities, but those final decisions are often talked about long before they reach the people they affect.
"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 state legislature meets in their regular session and decides how much money higher education is going to get."
However the present fiscal year is not unaffected by the cuts either. Earlier this fall the state said that they would be asking colleges to make a four percent reduction in their budgets for this fiscal year as well as next. For each of those years that cut would have been about $763,000. But then in late November the state analysts suggested that the schools would have to look at about $915,000 or about another five percent. All together those cuts add up to about $1.7 million. That cut would come out of CEU's current budget of a little over $19,0000. At that time the colleges administration started to look hard at budgets to see what they could cut and began to bring in all the budget managers to look at each of their departments. That committee was already at work on this years budget and next years as well when another cut was announced at the Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 5.
That cut came as a recognition of analysts forecasts for next year which showed some huge drops in state revenues. Consequetly officials were told at that meeting they could be looking at 7.5 percent (in lieu of the 5 percent) on top of the four percent already put in place. That meant the total amount of money to cut this year would be $1.37 million on top of the original $763,000. But to make matters worse it was also announced that on top of the cuts from this year, next year the state may require a additional 15 percent which would mean another $2.75 million in addition to the original $763,000.
King said the committee went hard to work trying to find funds to get through this year without having to make any major cuts to staff. They did that by looking at operating budgets, hourly accounts, travel budgets, vacant positions that are funded but not manned and a number of other places where they could skim off some money to make up what they 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," said King mentioning that a few temporary and part time positions will have to be cut. "
King also said they had some surplus that carried over from last year to use. But next year that money won't exist, and the cuts appear they will be much deeper.
"Next year we will have to be careful because we don't want to jeopardize the future of the college," he said. "But we can't actually cut stategically for next year until we know what the legislature is going to come up with for our budgets."
King said he was concerned that because the letters had to be sent out that some felt the administration was targeting faculty.
"We had to send those letters out because policy directs us to do so," he stated. "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 that got letters will be offered contracts once we see what the numbers show sometime in mid-February."
King said that 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. He also said that tuition for the school will go up next year, which will also bring in dollars.
Right now the state is in a quandry as to what to do about revenue and expeditures. Last week the state legislature met and suggested everyone take a 15 percent cut next year, but the governor has been somewhat more optimistic. He suggested that the cuts for this year be limited to 1.5 percent while next year no cuts greater than seven percent be leveled against state agencies. He also said that he would like to use money out of the states $300 million rainy day fund to help state agencies absorb some of the cuts.
King says with the decisions made the college will operate pretty much as usual for the rest of this fiscal year.