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Latest Budget News out of Boise Not
LEWISTON—In the latest round of budget holdbacks, Idaho
Governor Dirk Kempthorne last Thursday ordered a state-wide hiring freeze
and a hold on vehicle and other equipment purchases after a preliminary
revenue report indicated April tax collections may come in $60 million under
projections for the month.
In subsequently issued orders, Kempthorne directed all departments and
agencies to implement the following measures: Freeze hiring, freeze purchase
of any new vehicles and equipment, suspend all merit increases and return
all unobligated monies to the state’s general fund.
Nearly all of April’s anticipated $60 million shortfall occurred in
individual income tax revenues – which account for nearly half of the
state’s general fund revenue stream. Corporate income tax and sales tax
receipts were very close to the predicted amounts. Adding in the shortfalls
experienced in preceding months, Idaho’s shortfall for the year is nearly
$100 million in a budget based on nearly $2 billion in expenditures.
For Lewis-Clark State, the result of the latest salvo on its budgets is not
yet clear. Construction on the long planned-for activity center was put on
hold earlier this year, when the legislature and Governor Kempthorne froze
more than $81 million in state construction projects in March. Because of
the length of time the LCSC project has been on the books, LCSC’s activity
center was slated to be the first project reinstated. The college had
settled on a bid and construction was scheduled to begin as soon as the
March hold was lifted. Now the project will likely remain on hold until May
and June revenue numbers are in.
Because the hiring freeze will affect the college’s ability to fill open
positions, some programs may face accreditation issues. Accreditation
depends in part on faculty-to-student ratios, and programs unable to fill
vital positions may find themselves unable to meet accreditation criteria.
In an interview with Lewiston Morning Tribune reporter Brian Peters,
President Dene Thomas conceded that the latest news might see the college’s
already slim budget cut even more when the state’s fiscal 2003 year begins.
That could mean revisiting possible program reductions. Thomas said, “It’s
too early to know if we will need to make those cuts. But it’s not too early
to be considering those possibilities with news that is this bad.”
Administrators are compiling a list of questions and issues raised by the
latest holdback directives. Thomas, along with other university presidents
will meet in Boise Tuesday, May 7th to discuss the directives and their
impacts. Thomas has scheduled a campus-wide meeting in the Williams
Conference Center at 4:00 p.m. when she returns on the 7th. The all-campus
session will follow a meeting of the Faculty Association and Thomas plans to
pass on the latest information available at that time.