University recommends 8 to 10 percent budget cut

The university will recommend an across-the-board budget cut of 8 to 10 percent for the next academic school year to the Board of Trustees on Friday in response to the country’s economic situation, a university official said.

Brian Gutierrez, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said if accepted, the budget cut would be approved during the spring trustees meeting and save the university about $1.6 million.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said university officials want to make sure the university is prepared for next year.

“We don’t know the future, and I’m just trying to protect us the best I can,” Boschini said.

All departments, except areas that create revenue for the university, such as admissions, will be affected by the budget cuts, Boschini said.

Gutierrez said financial aid would not be affected by any recommended budget reductions.

The university’s endowment currently stands at $1.1 billion and has performed better than some endowments at other universities during these economic times because of the diversity of TCU’s portfolio, Gutierrez said.

Boschini said the proposed cuts will allow the university to give employees and staff a pool of funds for up to a 3 percent merit-based raise on their salary, about $3.6 million. The cuts would also allow the university to lower the tuition increase rate to 4 percent or 5 percent instead of 8 percent, Boschini said.

Department officials will have about a 3 percent increase in their salary cap, Boschini said. Officials would then recommend to the Provost’s office who should get a raise and how much, he added.

Gutierrez said if approved, the raise would be calculated based off of the employee’s salary.

Boschini said while the new budget does not eliminate any current positions, it prevents new ones from being added next year. The decrease would put a hold on the university’s goal to lower the student-teacher ratio from 14-to-1 to 13-to-1 by next year, he added.

Harold Leeman , associate director of major projects for the Physical Plant , said current construction projects, such as the $16 million renovation of Sherley Hall and the $25 million building of Scharbauer Hall will not be affected by the proposed budget decrease.

“We’re continuing the design for the projects, such as the renovation of Reed Hall, that may be built next year,” Leeman said.

The Board will discuss which pending projects to move forward with during the meeting Friday, Leeman said.

Gutierrez said funds for on-going construction projects have already been set aside.

Colleges throughout the university are in the process of adjusting their budgets for next year to account for the possible decrease in funds.

Homer Erekson, dean of the Neeley School of Business, said even though some programs’ growth may be delayed, he remains optimistic the school will be able to maintain its high- quality education.

“We’re literally in the midst of looking at our different programs and trying to assess how we’re going to keep high-quality programs going but also be responsive to the cuts,” Erekson said.

The school is looking at the possibility of private alternatives that would allow donors to help fund a particular program to help finance programs short term, Erekson said. Neeley officials will also evaluate current adjunct faculty in the spring and decide where they would serve best as the school enrolls students for the fall semester, Erekson said.

Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the college is also in the process of figuring out the possible ramifications of the budget cuts.

One area the school is considering to reduce is faculty travel, Burns said.

“Certainly, we can publish papers without presenting them at a national conference, but much of what happens at those conferences is that interaction and networking,” Burns said.

The budget cut would also affect the school’s ability to repair and replace equipment used for classes, Burns said. In addition, the university’s freeze on hiring additional faculty members would affect the school’s long term plans, Burns said.

“We have some plans for additional programs we want to develop within the next five years, and it will slow that immensely,” Burns said. “It’s difficult to add programs when you can’t add faculty.”

The budget decrease could affect the school’s ability to stay competitive on the graduate level because graduate students receive stipends to compensate them for helping faculty members in their research, Burns said.

“There may not be actual cuts in those, but if there is not money to add to them, then we still may have problems,” Burns said.

TCU is not the only university looking at adjusting its budget.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent a letter Oct. 14, to all state agencies, which include state universities, asking them to examine their spending, according to the letter obtained by the Skiff.

While Gov. Perry urges agencies to specifically reduce travel, no set amount or time period for those reductions are mentioned in the letter.

California is also urging schools to adjust their budgets.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a midyear budget cut of $65.5 million for the University of California school system, according to a news release on the University of California, Berkeley’s Web site.