Mesa State trustees warned to brace for deep, painful cuts

DENVER — The message Wednesday to the Mesa State College Board of Trustees was clear and gloomy: Budget cuts are coming, and they will be painful.

Gov. Bill Ritter recommended last Friday that Mesa State’s funding be cut by $932,000 this fiscal year as part of a $30 million cut statewide to higher education, and the college responded by announcing about $750,000 in cuts to this year’s budget.

This Friday, the state Office of Planning and Budget will share with the schools and the Legislature the cuts in higher education it recommends for the 2009-10 fiscal year, said Patrick Doyle, Mesa State’s vice president of finance.

Initially, the office recommended a 2.5 percent cut to this year’s higher education budget, then increased it to 4.25 percent, Doyle said.

The office’s initial recommendation for the 2009-10 budget was a 7.5 percent cut. If the state follows by nearly doubling that recommendation, it would force Mesa State to slash $2.6 million from its 2009-10 budget, Doyle said.

“Halfway through the year, when we’ve spent that money, we now will have to give some back,” Mesa State President Tim Foster said of this fiscal year. “For ’09-10, we’re hedging a bit. We know what our costs are going to be, but what we don’t know is our revenue.”

Doyle said Mesa State’s plan to weather the economic storm includes examining the necessity of filling vacant positions, sharing equipment among departments, and consolidating summer classes into fewer buildings so that some buildings would not need to be cleaned or air-conditioned.

Carol Futhey, vice president of academic and student affairs, said to cut costs her department provided one fewer paid faculty sabbatical than normal.

The college will establish a link on the faculty and student community Web site, Mavzone, to take budget-saving and revenue suggestions, Doyle said.

The board discussed openly the likelihood of tuition increases to offset the budget cuts.

“The last thing we want to do is raise costs,” Foster said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to cost more to go to college in Colorado in 18 months. Anywhere really. That’s unavoidable.”

Foster said in the broader context of higher education being affordable in Colorado, Mesa
State would remain a more affordable option than its four-year peers.

Gayle Berry, legislative liaison for Mesa State, said the college’s construction projects still are safely funded, but Foster said future projects, such as a plan to remodel three residence halls this summer, might be in jeopardy.

Board member Glen Gallegos said Mesa State’s lack of a long-term plan concerns him if Colorado’s budget woes extend beyond 2010.

“I think we have a good plan for right now,” Gallegos said. “But will we be able to see the impacts of this if this goes beyond two years?”

Board member Lena Elliott was recognized at the meeting for being reappointed to another four-year term by the governor.


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