State budget cuts to mostly affect academic core

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State budget cuts will cost the University $92 million for the 2012-13 biennium, President William Powers Jr. said in an email last week.

In Powers’ email, he said the cut amounts to about a 16.5-percent reduction in the number of state dollars compared to the 2010-11 biennium. Kevin Hegarty, UT vice president and chief financial officer, said the necessary cuts will mostly come from the academic core, which comprises about $1.2 billion of the University’s $2.2 billion operating budget. These cuts will impact students, faculty, staff and research institutions, administrators said.

In the 2010-11 academic year, UT received $318 million from the state; about 14 percent of the total budget. Powers said in his email the anticipated cut matches what he expected at the start of the session.

Hegarty said the budget shortfall would compel campuswide cuts in which no department or school would be singled out. Colleges have been preparing for the cuts for more than a year, he said, and each college will determine how to make the necessary cuts.

“We leave the decisions up to the deans working with their department chairs,” Hegarty said.

For example, the College of Liberal Arts cut $4.7 million dollars from the academic departments’ yearly instructional budgets last year. Over the next year, the college will cut $1 million from ethnic studies centers as well as other centers, according to the college’s website, and the college must find $2.5 million more in cuts.
As far as faculty members are concerned, the college might not be able to fill positions of everyone who leaves, said assistant dean James Sutherland.

“Tenured faculty will not be laid off,” Sutherland said.

Special items, including research institutions like the Institute of Geophysics, could take the hardest hit. The institute would lose 25 percent of funding — almost $5 million, said Mary Knight, associate vice president and
budget director.

Texas Memorial Museum, which also falls under special items, would lose 25 percent of funding. The museum will have to cut back on tours for elementary school students, she said. The Museum also has a research component, and cuts would impact its ability to keep up with new discoveries and update its collection, Knight said.

In the email Powers sent out, he mentioned retirement contributions for employees would also be affected. The contributions are mandated by the state and might decrease if the budget is passed, Knight said.

“If the percentage goes down, [the state] has to give us less money [for employee retirement],” Knight said.

She said depending on how much money the University gets back from the state, the University may have to reduce the budget further and lay off more employees.

“None of these decisions have been made yet,” Knight said.

Hegarty said it is hard to retain the best and the brightest professors and other faculty members if there is no increase in salaries.

“It’s hard on us because we see what it does directly to people,” he said.

With education becoming more expensive, he said he is afraid some students might not consider going to college because they can’t even afford to apply.

“We want anybody with the desire and intellectual capacity to attend a place like this, regardless of their circumstances,” Hegarty said.

Michael Morton, spokesman for Senate of College Councils and a journalism junior, said it is unfortunate these cuts are happening but he thinks the administration has done a good job preparing the University.

“It will be interesting to see how these cuts play out and where they fall into place,” Morton said.

He said the School of Journalism cut back on adjunct professors last semester, which is a loss because they are such a good resource for students.

“They have been in the field and they know how it works,” Morton said.

Whenever you lose a professor, he said, it’s going to hurt the University and the students.