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|ULM faces big budget cut|
The University of Louisiana-Monroe is facing a cut in state funding ranging from $7.7 million-$14 million in the upcoming fiscal year, ULM President James Cofer said in a letter distributed via e-mail to university employees.
The proposed budget cut represents as much as 15 percent of ULM's $88 million budget. The cut in funding would evolve as the state grapples with an anticipated $2-billion budget shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The Legislature will tackle budgetary matters during its regular legislative session in the spring.
"Members of the (university) cabinet met over the weekend and discussed the ramifications of these amounts and the procedures for developing preliminary plans in response to the Division of Administration, which requests our plans by January 26, 2009," Cofer said in his e-mail.
Cofer told employees he expected further budget cuts next year (2010-11 fiscal year) but reiterated his faith in ULM's overall health and the ability of the university to weather the economic crisis.
"ULM, through our decentralized budget development process, is well-prepared to respond to these extremely challenging times," Cofer said. "I make this statement because I believe in you and our collective ability to persevere in difficult circumstances."
Cofer also informed university employees the proposed budget cuts were preliminary.
"I ask you to please be patient and remember that nothing is set in concrete now or in a week, or in a month, so anything you may hear will be only rumor," Cofer said. "I urge you to trust the process and to trust each other over the coming days, weeks and months."
The Jindal administration recently announced some $341 million in budget cuts for the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, administration officials have been making plans to address the state's projected $2-billion shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis pointed out the proposed budget cuts for higher education, including the proposed cut for ULM, are merely proposals, meaning actual cuts in state funding could be less when the Legislature approves the state's spending plan for the new fiscal year.
"As we saw with the current year $341-million deficit elimination plan, the figure initially reported for higher education was $109 million," said Davis. "But because of strategic reductions spread throughout the budget, that figure was reduced to $55 million, or by almost half."
Davis said the state spent more money on higher education in the 2008-09 fiscal year in spite of the $55 million cut the Jindal administration recently imposed.
According to a letter sent from Davis's office to Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen, the total budget cuts for colleges and universities across the state will run as high as $212 million.
While a significant portion of the state's budgetary woes are due to falling oil and gas prices, one Jindal administration official said the petroleum industry was not the only culprit.
Michael DiResto, communications director for the Division of Administration, said Louisiana has seen significant declines in personal income tax revenues and sales tax and corporate tax collections.
"So, this is not just on oil," said DiResto.