Tuesday, February 3, 2009
State Appropriation Update
Two weeks ago, the Legislature wrapped-up a painful special session that resulted in further cuts to the State University System. Gov. Crist has since signed the revised budget - and vetoed parts of it - and the result for UWF is a 4 percent cut to our 2008-2009 state appropriation. This amounts to about $2.7 million. These are difficult cuts, but we had prepared for this possibility and are well positioned to absorb the reduction with minimal impact to our core responsibilities. Still, over the past two years UWF has seen a cumulative reduction of nearly $8 million.
Where we go from here is less than certain. The state and national economies continue in what could be a prolonged recession. Without action by our Governor and Legislature to enhance revenues, additional cuts will likely be necessary as the regular legislative session begins and the process of forging the 2009-2010 budget gets underway. Several factors could impact the legislative budget process including proposals to increase the cigarette tax and do away with certain sales tax exemptions. We are also encouraged by the possibility of enrollment growth and increased tuition dollars. And we do not yet know the impact of the economic stimulus legislation working its way through Congress. All of these mechanisms could result in significant funds being made available to the states for help in shoring-up depleted budgets. Or it may not. We simply do not know yet.
While it is important to remain optimistic - and the prospect of assistance is cause for such optimism - it remains an extraordinarily difficult time and further cuts to the state budget may be unavoidable. We hope for the best, but we must continue to be prudent and prepare for what could be a very difficult year ahead. Thus, I have asked the vice presidents to begin working with the deans, department chairs and unit directors to model several budget reduction scenarios. For now these are exercises, not reality, and I know how difficult it is to even think about making more reductions. However, we must plan, project, forecast and not be caught off guard.
Be assured that I am monitoring the situation closely and I will keep you informed as we progress. Finally, let me say that it is important for us to stay our course and to continue to provide a high-quality education for our students. I know it is easy to become distracted by all of the economic melodrama, and most certainly we must pay close attention, but I urge you to remain focused on our primary mission of educating students. If we continue to do it well, we will prosper because students will want to be a part of the UWF family.