By Eric Steigleder
As the national and state economies continue to worsen, Governor Tim Kaine has recommended that the General Assembly cut $1,917,808 from Mary Washington’s state funding for the 2009 fiscal year. Kaine has also recommended a state-funding cut of nearly $3,573,822 for the 2010 fiscal year, a total state-funding cut of fifteen percent.
The Virginia General Assembly will not approve the state’s official budget until Feb. 28th, leaving many unsure of Mary Washington’s fiscal future.
According to Richard Pearce, associate vice president for business and finance, the university is still recovering from the round of cuts implemented during the 2003-2004 fiscal year.
However, unlike that round of cuts, which were focused mainly on administrative spending, this new round of cuts may affect all sectors of the university.
“Unlike the 2003-2004 period, all departments are on the table.” Pearce said. “Everything is on the table according to the President.”
While overall cuts to departmental spending are daunting, smaller departments may especially fare worse following budget reductions.
When asked to comment, Craig Vasey, chair of the department of Ccassics, philosophy and religion, was practical in his assessment.
“We don’t know anything about how budget cuts will happen yet, or how they will affect us,” Vasey said in an e-mail interview. “Of course we do not look forward to them and we hope to not be affected. I have not heard any proposals for cuts yet.”
According to Paul Messplay, executive Ddrector of budget analysis, this should not be surprising. Because the departments have no official numbers to go by, there is little to no way to gauge the affect of a funding cut accurately.
“At this point,” Messplay said, “the individual departments will not be on top of this.”
However, Pearce was quick to point out that the university has been taking steps to lessen the impact of the impending budget cuts.
“We’re holding some positions open and freezing other positions,” he said. “We’re trying to rein in spending.”
Once the funding cuts go into effect, Messplay outlined some possible steps the university will take to make up the difference.
“The state funding reduction,” Messplay said, “will likely be addressed through a combination of hiring freezes, turnover and vacancy savings, targeted and/or across-the-board budget cuts, and tuition and fee increases.”
Pearce hinted at a possible proposal by the General Assembly to aid higher education in the aftermath of the proposed cuts, although there is no precise plan as of this writing.