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Universities prepare budget-cut contingency plans

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University (CSU) officials may have to put off some of their plans for classroom upgrades and library acquisitions, as well as lose some members of the school's faculty, if new budget reductions are needed during the school year, according to University System of Georgia documents.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State's governing body, last week, approved plans to make budget cuts of up to 8 percent for the states public colleges and universities -- or $153.84 million in reductions. There are also plans on how to implement smaller cuts of 4-percent ($76.92 million), and 6-percent ($115.38 million).

According to University System of Georgia officials, that does not signify a definite guarantee that budget cuts are coming, however. Rather, they are contingency plans in case the state's economy falters again, as it did during fiscal year 2010, when budgets had to be cut across state government, including at Georgia's public colleges and universities, said Tom Daniel, the University System of Georgia's senior vice chancellor of external relations.

"The governor's [budget] office has told all state agencies to prepare budget reduction plans of 4-, 6-, and 8-percent for this year, and 10-percent for [fiscal year] 2012, and that's what we've done," Daniel said. "Hopefully, they will not have to be used. We just got word that revenue figures were up in July, for the second month in a row, so we're all hoping that's the encouraging news that we've all been hoping for," Daniel continued.

If cuts are implemented, though, Clayton State's share could total up to $1.91 million, in the event of an 8-percent cut, this year, according to budget-reduction documents from the Board of Regents' meeting agenda packet. A 4-percent cut would amount to $956,201, while a 6-percent cut would total $1.43 million, according to the documents.

"We have been working on this since this past spring," said Clayton State President Tim Hynes. "When we were putting our budget together, part of that process was to say, 'What can we cut that won't keep us from meeting our mission.'"

Vice Chancellor Daniel said the 10-percent cut for state agencies, which could be possible in fiscal 2012, does not include specifics for how they would be implemented at each university. If it is necessary, though, the budget-reduction documents show that the cuts would total $192.3 million across the 35 institutions in the university system. Clayton State's share would be $2.39 million.

Hynes said that if cuts are implemented this year, it will not stop plans to build a new science building on CSU's main campus in Morrow. University officials have been saying for years that the building is needed to provide lab space, and relieve congestion that is causing students to have to wait for lab space to become available.

The cuts would, however, keep the university from implementing technology upgrades in classrooms, according to Hynes. New acquisitions for the library would also have to be put on hold, and some faculty positions would have to be eliminated, he said.

"We'll just have to work the best we can to move forward," the president said.

Still, Hynes underscored the point that officials across the university system are optimistic that the plans may not be needed, based on state revenue figures from June and July, which showed increases of 3.8 percent, and 4.7 percent, respectively.

At 4-percent, fiscal year 2010 budget cuts at Clayton State would include:

* A $425,000 reduction of faculty in several areas, affecting undergraduate business offerings at the Peachtree City campus, music composition, math advisement, dental hygiene, and health-care management.

* A $200,000 reduction in funding for classroom upgrades, such as paint, lighting, acoustical tiles, window shades, electricity, whiteboards, new desks and chairs for students.

* A $200,000 reduction in spending for network technology upgrades in classrooms.

* A $75,000 reduction in funding for audio/visual upgrades in classrooms.

* A $56,000 reduction in library upgrades and acquisitions.

If there is a 6-percent cut for fiscal year 2010, the 4-percent budget cuts would be implemented, but there would also be additional cuts, including:

* A $434,000 reduction in operating expenses.

* A further $44,000 reduction in library acquisitions.

If the cuts go up to 8-percent, the 4-, and 6-percents cuts would be implemented, plus an additional cut that would include:

* A $478,000 reduction in funding for renovations for academic buildings, which were designed to add more instructional space for students.