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|Reprinted with permission from the Lewiston Morning
Budget Casualties Still Uncertain; Idaho Higher Education Institutions Plan for Cuts
Heather Frye - Lewiston Morning Tribune
POCATELLO -- How deep the wound will be after 2-percent holdbacks slice state college and university budgets isn't known. Regardless, it will hurt, university leaders told board members here Thursday.
Idaho State University President Richard Bowen told the board the university will likely have to cut 24 positions to comply with the 2-percent cuts mandated for all state agencies.
Dene Thomas, Lewis-Clark State College president, said the school is still adopting a new strategic plan and will try to mitigate the holdback damage by tightening program efficiency, which the school was already planning.
Two or three positions might be lost, Thomas said. And the already meek professional development budget is likely to disappear. But LCSC will do all it can to minimize problems during the squeeze, she said.
Wayland Winstead, executive director of the University of Idaho Planning and Budget Office, said that like other institutions, the UI is experiencing high student numbers and growth. Cuts of UI positions currently filled are not expected.
The holdbacks came after tax revenues failed to meet expectation, causing a shortfall on the heels of what was thought to be a boom time for the state. Gov. Kempthorne cut $100 million from the taxpayer burden while the state had a surplus of around $330 million last fall.
Now expectations are that the holdback is expected to get worse.
The state board cut $41,500 from its budget in order to meet compliance. Boise State University is expecting to shave around $1.4 million from its financial pie. The UI will have to cut about $1.8 million, plus $500,000 from agricultural extension programs. LCSC is expecting to pare around $258,000.
Idaho Public Television Director Peter Morrill tried to avoid cutting salaried positions by slicing capital outlay and operating costs.
But Blake Hall, a board member from Idaho Falls, said he believed that would be a bad idea, and one that could potentially cause greater problems later, if equipment was improperly maintained.
Other state agencies under board supervision, such as the Idaho Historical Society, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and library services reported those programs would receive similar cuts.
All agencies and the public school districts must report to the state assessor's office next week initial plans for compliance.
But it will likely be April before any agency knows exactly how the cuts will affect state workers and programs.
Board members asked university leaders if it was reasonable to expect to know sooner.
"No it is not," replied UI President Bob Hoover.
Hoover reminded the board that this is a process that has to be done "exactly right" or the agencies and universities could end up embroiled in a lawsuit, similar to the one the UI was entangled in during the early 1990s, when an employee was dismissed improperly after budget cuts.
"That lawsuit hit us right between the eyes," Hoover noted. "And we do not want that to happen again."
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