Proration leads to university cuts

Published 9:55 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pike County and Troy City Schools aren’t the only ones locally looking to cut back in a year facing one of the highest budget fallbacks in Alabama history.

Troy University officials announced they will be taking several steps in this academic year to make up for funding shortfalls with the state expecting a 12.5 percent proration.

As part of their plan, the university will freeze vacant positions until April 1 and reduce their non-salary budget by 10 percent, said Troy’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business Affairs Jim Bookout.

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Bookout said the university will also keep a close eye on funds that could be generated from positions that open up in the course of the year, as well as monitor all revenues as they actually are received.

The budget to be cut by 10 percent includes all of school’s funding minus salary and benefits, which is budgeted separately.

Bookout said the university budget is split into separate accounts, so he can’t specifically say how the school plans to cut 10 percent of its operations.

He said each of the university’s departments receives a lump sum budget for its needs, and department heads determine how to use those funds, so it would be impossible to list one item that may be cut from university spending this year. But, some of the non-salary expenses are travel, contract services, supplies and capital equipment.

“Rather than have to reduce the budget by such specific categories, we simply reduce the original allocation by 10 percent,” Bookout said. “The expense category reflecting the 10 percent reduction will vary by department, based on its specific operating needs.”

Bookout said the university’s hiring freeze will last at least until April 1.

The university is looking at being under funded by some $25 million through the next 21 months, combining the affects of proration and next years’ proposed legislative cuts.

Marcus Paramore, a lobbyist for Troy University, said in this week’s education budget hearings, the state has projected a shortfall between $800 million and $1 billion for schools statewide.

While State Superintendent Joe Morton and Chancellor of Alabama’s two-year colleges Bradley Byrne have requested additional funding from the legislature in 2010, despite economic shortfalls, Paramore said Higher Education institutions have not.

“Four year institutions as a whole have asked for, knowing the money is not always there, that when we get out of recession we get back to fiscal year 2008 funding,” Paramore said. “Our main request is for equitable cuts.”

And though the university is bracing for cuts in its budget, which will start again in October 2009, Bookout said they have no further plans to increase tuition or fees just yet.

“At this time we are unable to extrapolate the affect the budget reduction initiative, as well as future legislative appropriations will have on tuition rates,” Bookout said.

“We must continue to take a conservative approach to spending, meet our revenue projections and continue our good stewardship of existing resources.”

In order for any such changes to occur, Bookout said they would have to be approved by the Board of Trustees, as the tuition changes that switched tuition from one flat rate to a per-hour charge were last summer.