University speaks out against budget cuts

Haley Russell
Assistant News Editor

After Gov. Steve Beshear presented his budget to cut higher education revenue, the University’s administration began the preliminary stages of planning for the loss of nearly $3.2 million in the next fiscal year, beginning July 1.

The budget is waiting to be passed by the legislature, though University administrators do not foresee a change in the budget.

Jack Rose, professor of education and staff representative on the Board of Regents, said even though the University had a strong financial base, the proposed budget would not go unnoticed.

“Basically for Murray, I think it comes down to about $3.2 million that will be reduced from our budget compared to the current year,” he said. “That’s significant.”

Despite the cuts Murray State will face and the reevaluation of programs, positions and tuition that comes with it, Rose said a plan should be devised that will adjust with the budget but retain academic programs and services necessary for students.

Rose said he believed that under University President Randy Dunn’s direction, past financial difficulties have been avoided.

“I think that (President Dunn) has done this before, when we’ve had some potential shortfalls he’s moved deliberately and determined what we really have to do and need to do,” he said. “I think he’s handled it very well at this point and I appreciate that.”

At the last Board of Regents meeting, the auditors gave very positive feedback to the University’s finances, Rose said.

“Murray State is very strong financially, so I think we’re at a position to weather the storm.”

Though Rose is optimistic, he said he does not know how long the University can hold its economic stability, riding on 6.4 percent cuts.

“I think we’re in a good solid position, but no one is in a good enough position to weather a 6.4 percent cut for very long,” he said. “So the question then becomes ‘how do you prioritize?’”

To get through the toughest financial times he has seen as a superintendent of Calloway County Schools and the dean of the College of Education, Rose said it is imperative the University examine current vacant and unnecessary positions to help the administration and the institution as a whole to become more efficient.

Rose said the deepness of the cuts determines how the University plans for the future.

“I think that’s where strategic planning and looking to the future and visionary kinds of things really comes into play,” he said.

Josh Jacobs, chief of staff, also said the University’s fiscal assessments will have to become more in depth.

“Obviously, any time you start to talk about cuts in the millions we start to have to evaluate again how we spend every dollar,” he said. “Not that we don’t evaluate that on an annual basis, but when we’re losing state support it is very critical that we are investing our resources in the right places.”

Since 2007, the University has seen a total of 14.38 percent in cuts and has survived under each, a result of a strong administrative leadership, Jacobs said.

“Thankfully, through good fiscal management by the administration and the Board (of Regents), we’ve been able to weather some of these cuts over the past couple of years by the state,” Jacobs said.

The University operates on four sources of revenue – tuition, state support, grants and private giving. Jacobs said of these four, there is a certain mix that the administration uses in order to meet their budgets.

“We’re trying to be able to generate revenue from other ways other than student tuition and the state,” Jacobs said.

Though tuition increases are possible, Jacobs said it is too early to estimate how much it will increase, though Dunn said the University may see an increase as high as 7 percent.

In the coming months, Jacobs said administration would begin to review the programs on campus and work to become more efficient, possibly eliminating those that are in low demand.

Dunn said because Murray State is in good financial health, it will not feel the affects of the cuts until the 2013-2014 year, which will give the administration more time to evaluate the budget.

Decisions such as these, Dunn said, take careful consideration.

“I’ve never been one to be a ‘ready-fire-aim’ person,” he said. “Decisions of this magnitude need to be carefully thought through and made.”

Dunn said decisions could be made more effectively because of the fiscal wellbeing of the University.