Budget bewilderment

Victoria Blute

UA students, staff and faculty shouldn’t start worrying quite yet about UA’s budget.

Although a budget cut at the university is imminent, the financial loss in question and where the cut will be applied have not yet been determined.

Despite a recent article in the Tucson Citizen describing a fast approaching 4-percent budget cut as a reaction by the provost, the percent-specific tale simply isn’t so, said Johnny Cruz, UA director of media relations.

“”The Tucson Citizen article didn’t have entirely accurate information,”” Cruz said. “”We had to correct some of what was on the record. The Citizen story said that university departments were directed to plan for implementation of a four percent budget cut at the response of the provost, and it just wasn’t true.””

Cruz made it clear that there weren’t any written documents noting that deans or university departments were asked to look into a precise percentage, and there wasn’t any organization-wide message with an explicit number connected.

Cruz explained while it is no secret that institutions have been more conservative with their spending this year, a number hasn’t been determined as to how much of the funding slash the UA will have to deal with.

In response to a recent display of fewer hours at the Student Recreation Center as part of a budget cut, Cruz said it referenced an in-year cut unrelated to the current fiscal year.

“”The administrative service charge was something implemented during the year, not related to the upcoming year,”” he said.

Cruz clarified the impossibility of predicting how circumstances will evolve throughout the university before there is an agreed-upon budget at the state level.

“”We need to wait for the process to conclude for us to know how things are going to turn out for the coming year,”” Cruz said.

Likewise, Christine Thompson, spokeswoman for legislative affairs for the Arizona Board of Regents also had no speedy answer as to what the future of the financial cut will mean.

“”I can tell you that there hasn’t been a final decision made by the board on how the cut will be distributed,”” she said. “”In the fiscal ’09 budget which started on July 1, the state Legislature funded enrollment growth at each of the three institutions, but also requires that the board of regents allocated a $50 million dollar cut across the system,”” she said.

Regents are still looking into ways to allocate the budget cuts to Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona, Thompson said.

Although numbers are still currently undecided, President Robert Shelton addressed the stumbling blocks that UA will have to climb over once the cut is officially decided in an e-mail to the UA community.

“”In a perfect world, we would have all the funding we need for everything we’d like to pursue,”” Shelton said. “”That not being the case, we intend to continue working with the deans and vice presidents to make the necessary cuts in a strategic and thoughtful manner.””

Shelton noted that his goal is to continue to maintain the “”excellent student experience,”” which has come to be a trademark of the university.

He remarked on the monetary hurdle the school will face in the 2008-09 school year, citing the plan developed by the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee. Describing the condition of the university as “”strong,”” Shelton detailed how the committee will adjust funding based on the university’s priorities for the future.

Additionally, Shelton reached out to all colleges, explaining that they must “”consider whether all the programs currently funded are fully justified.””

Thompson detailed that the final decision will be made by the board of regents in the next month, explaining that it’s now up to the presidents of each institution to decide how to allocate the funding.

“”Whatever the university has allocated as their portion of the cut, then each institution will decide internally,”” she said.

Cruz says the university is currently waiting for the state budget to be resolved and for the governor to sign that budget. Much like President Shelton, Cruz described a carefully planned, step-by-step approach to the future of the university.

“”The crux of it is that we’ve been conservative financially, and we’re ready to respond to whatever the budget legislature agrees on,”” he said. “”Once that’s done, we’ll proceed and make our plans accordingly.””