UNM-LA copes with budget cuts

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University girds for cuts in funding yet to come

By Jennifer Garcia

The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos has been faced with some tough times. Not only did voters reject their mil levy proposal during an election earlier this year, but during last week’s election, voters rejected the referendum on Bond D, which means that the campus is faced with tightening their belts even more because there will not be additional funding from the state.
During Monday night’s UNM-LA Advisory Board meeting, Campus Resources Director Lisa Clough announced that the revised budget included a 3.2 percent budget reduction, leaving the campus with a budget of $3.9 million, down $65,100 from $4.6 million.
Executive Director Dr. Cedric Page said that even more cuts are on the horizon, as all state agencies are expecting a 2-5 percent cut, which would also affect the campus.   
“We will have to wait and see about the gap between state revenues and projected expenditures,” he said.
If the budget is slashed even more, the local university will be faced with even tougher decisions, given that a mil levy doesn’t seem like a possibility any time soon. Board member Marie Chiravalle said the recent election is an indication that voters are not ready for another mil levy.
“They’re (the voters) still not ready to do anything for higher education,” she said. “… I’d like to think the community is vested in education; not just public, but higher education. It’s not everyone in the community … They’re very upset. Though they got a break on taxes, it’s not done much to sway them.”
Page said the campus was able to address the 3.2 percent budget cuts with existing cash balances, but is not sure that would be a possibility for the next round of reductions.
“We maintained a little balance for emergencies,” he said. “We might be able to take a little more out of our balances, but we have to maintain a minimum of three percent, so we’ll have to look to achieve cost savings in other ways.”
He said some of the possibilities include not filling vacant positions and cutting  back on operational expenses.
“The last resort would be to reduce staffing and faculty positions,” Page said.
During the board meeting, Page also suggested that the campus might also have to constrain enrollment, however, Chiravalle was opposed to that idea.
“Constraining enrollment is not going to be the answer for us,” she said.
She also brought up the fact that although tuition prices increased by 9 percent, the campus did not benefit from that increase.
“We raised our tuition 9 percent and the revenue we brought in was zip,” Chiravalle said.
Though the campus is facing lean times, Page said he and his staff are prepared to continue to deliver the same quality of education services and meet the community’s needs across the board, to include programs like Adult Basic Education, GED and workforce training activities.
“As far as what to anticipate budget-wise, I think the legislature will take a serious look at the formula for higher education,” Page said. “There will probably be changes in factors that measure our performance, which ultimately will impact your compensation, your reward for enrolling students and getting them through to graduation.”
He did say that those are policy decisions that will happen at the legislative level, but he’s confident that he and his staff will be consulted in terms of the impact that any of those policy decisions might have.
“We’ve had good relations with the Legislative Finance Committee and key legislators,” he said.