UT budget director answers questions about funding cuts

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Budget director Mary Knight spoke with The Daily Texan to address administrative plans to deal with a reduction of state appropriations over the next two years. Total permanent cuts amount to $92 million or $46 million per year — about 17.5 percent of UT’s state funding.

The Daily Texan: What should students expect will be different when they return in the fall?
Mary Knight: They may see things like library hours reduced, and there could be some larger class sizes. But course availability is a priority. Some of the maintenance on campus may be reduced. Things like trash pickup in the offices and overall maintenance of the campus may look a little bit less kept over time. I think the important things are being maintained for the students.

DT: What is the process of planning and implementing cuts?
MK: Each college and each vice president has a five-year plan that considers the budget reductions and state appropriations. There is also a lot of room for doing things more efficiently and doing things better. We’ll be doing more work with fewer people. There will be an impact, but we’re trying to maintain the academic and research missions as much as possible and make cuts in other areas.

DT: What funding sources is the administration seeking to make up for reductions in state appropriations?
MK: The Board of Regents recently passed an increase in allotment from the Available University Fund, but that increase is not a permanent increase, and the cuts are permanent. We get an extra $22 million for this year, but for the 2012-13 year, that may not be there. And with the market reductions we’ve seen this week, the [fund] is significantly impacted by that, so that fund may fall.

DT: What impact has pre-planning made in this process?
MK: It’s been huge. For 2010-11, we already reduced $29 million because we were planning for this. We’ve been planning for almost two years. The deans and vice presidents have made thoughtful reductions, they’ve assessed priorities, they’ve met with the provost multiple times. They’re really going through a significant detailed process.

DT: How can students impact budget cuts when it’s such a complicated process?
MK: Get involved in the process. The college councils are available if they’re particularly interested in improving their college. There’s Graduate Student Assembly, and there are all kinds of student positions within Student Government, including legislative outreach. The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee is starting up soon, and there will be public forums on those. If students are interested in their tuition rates, they should come and talk about it and get their
voices heard.

Printed on Thursday, August 11, 2011 as: UT budget director answers questions about future plans