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The Blue & Gray Press | November 18, 2017

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Budget Losses Under Control

JUSTIN TONEY

The University of Mary Washington is reducing its budgetary expenses by $1,638,822, in an effort to compensate for a 6.25 percent cut in state appropriations.
On Aug. 20, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine announced to the General Assembly his intention to reduce appropriations to all state-owned institutions in order to make up for a $642 million shortfall in state revenue.
“The challenges we face are significant, but they are also manageable,” said Kaine, “We will meet them in a way that doesn’t just see us through the current fiscal year, but puts us on a strong footing for the future.”
In reaction to the news of budget losses, the University’s Core Planning Group froze all hiring of non-essential personnel, halved funds for equipment expenses and reduced instructional and administrative operations costs.
The Core Planning Group consists of five vice presidents, the University’s Provost and the acting president who has final authority in budget formation.
According to Vice President of Business and Finance Rick Pearce, the changes will only affect the 2008 budget, and should not therefore make a raise in tuition necessary.
“This is just for this year, and if the General Assembly decides to keep this permanent, that would mean making some permanent changes,” he said. “We are not going to put this reduction on the backs of students and parents.”
According to Dan Hix, the Director of Finance Policy at the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, Mary Washington will lose $1,450,000 of the $21 million set aside from the state.
Hix said that areas such as K-12 education, medicaid and the Department of Corrections are not being affected at all by the cuts.
“Unfortunately, certain areas have to pick up an unproportional share, and higher education usually does this because we have the ability to raise tuition,” he said.
“If this is anything like 2002, which had a much larger hole in the budget… institutions may have to rely on tuition hikes,” he continued. “There’s no indication at this point that we’re anywhere near that big of a budget problem.”
Acting President Rick Hurley commented, “I’m happy we’re financially strong enough to absorb this cut without major disruption to students, faculty, or staff.”
He insists, “No one working now will be laid off or have their hours reduced as a result of these cuts.”
Campus Police and other necessary positions are exempt from the hiring freezes.
Dean of Faculty Rosemary Barra said that all faculty vacancies at the Fredericksburg campus will be filled, but some positions at the Stafford campus will not be.
“We need to have the faculty to teach the courses,” said Barra, who would not comment on what positions currently need to be filled.
“The budget reduction takes effect immediately,” said Hurley, “ I do not expect any impact on students.”
Kaine met with the Council of Presidents on Sept. 24 to give advanced notice that colleges and universities would face reduced appropriations. At this meeting, Kaine assured university presidents that he would keep reductions low by drawing from the Rainy Day Fund—a state emergency savings account.
According to Hurley, who attended the meeting, budgetary changes being enacted by the Governor will not be made official until January or February when the General Assembly finalizes the Caboose Bill, which retroactively changes the 2006-2008 state budget.
“If they don’t get the Rainy Day Fund, institutions will have to take care of budget reductions by themselves,” said Hurley.