VC, UHV brace for more budget cuts


Dec. 5, 2010 at 6:05 a.m.

The cookie jar of higher education funds continues to shrink as the state grapples with budget shortfalls of as much as $25 billion next legislative session.

Higher education institutions, already asked to reduce budgets by 5 percent for the current year, were forced to create 10 percent smaller requests for the next two-year funding cycle. The legislature will look at those reduced requests when the session begins in January.

For the University of Houston-Victoria, which receives about 42 percent of its revenues from the state, the future cut takes a $1.3 million bite out of its budget.

For Victoria College, which receives about 24 percent of its funds from the state, that's a reduction of about $680,000.

Making the cut

The January reductions, often a imaginative worst-case scenario for educational institutions, might be the reality with such a huge deficit.

"The fact that they're looking at such a large projected deficit at the state level, we're expecting our state appropriations to be less than they were this year," said Keith Blundell, Victoria College vice president of administrative services.

In order to make cuts, a variety of things not related to growth or instruction will go on the chopping block.

Last year, UHV trimmed about $600,000 by using more adjunct professors to teach classes, cutting travel expenses for employees and not renewing professional memberships.

"You can't cut 5 percent of your budget one year and then cut 10 percent or more out of it the following year without it having a serious impact on our ability to maintain operations in a quality way," said Interim President Don Smith.

VC President Tom Butler said in the past VC even raised tuition and fees, cut travel and less essential positions to meet the skimpy budget demands. The college cut $340,804 last year to keep with leaner state appropriations.

"We've already made lots of cuts," he said. "So now we're at a point where how much more can you cut without eventually getting to a reduction of services to students."

Looming budget woes

But the budget woes could get worse, and, as the state's budget continues to crumble, the institutions could possibly be staring at a mid-year 2 or 3 percent cut.

"The guidance that we've gotten so far is to expect a cut in the range of 2-3 percent of this year's state appropriations," said Butler, noting that the school had not gotten any official word from the state. "So, until it's official we don't really know that it's going to happen or how much it would be if they do decide to do that. We're kind of on hold here."

The cut would amount to about $204,000 for the school.

For UHV, the cut would be in the range of $320,000.

"Any kind of revision this year is just talk so far," Smith said. "It's worrisome, but it's not reality, at least not yet."

While both entities say they could absorb a mid-year cut because of higher revenues from increased enrollment, they're far from sitting high and dry.

"There's no way to be certain about it, because at this juncture no body really quite knows what they have to deal with and that includes the revenue side," Smith said.

The last time the schools were asked to make cuts this deep was in 2003 when the state asked for 7 percent of its funding back mid-year. Both agree the current situation is dire, and the bleak forecast for January is worse than ever.

"It's as bad as I've ever gone through, and I've gone through a number these cycles over the years," Smith said. "But we will emerge out of it."



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