McNeese addresses mid-year budget cut

The following is a news release from McNeese State University.

McNeese State University's plan to address a mid-year budget reduction of $2,059,348 has been submitted for approval by the University of Louisiana System.

In order to fill a $247.9 million state budget deficit, higher education is being cut $84 million. All state agencies were required to submit plans to address the mid-year cut by today (Jan. 8).

This is the third state-authorized cut to the McNeese budget in 13 months. Last December, McNeese was handed a $1.9 million mid-year cut and additional cuts were made before the 2009-10 fiscal year began in July. "We began this academic year with a 13 percent reduction in state appropriation funding," Dr. Robert Hebert, McNeese president, said.

To address the mid-year cut, McNeese will continue to hold more than 70 vacant full-time positions, including 30 full-time faculty positions, and make further reductions to operating services.

"Budget reductions have been made in all areas including reducing support for athletics, professional services and other non-mission critical auxiliaries," Hebert said. "Beginning last spring we implemented a cost containment plan that includes holding personnel appointments, eliminating discretionary in-state and out-of-state travel, postponing non-essential facility repairs and maintenance and reducing purchases of equipment, supplies, library books and other operating services."

Hebert outlined the budget situation for faculty and staff in August at the annual general faculty meeting. "As I said then, it is important to focus on our priorities and our core academic mission and try to protect our most important asset, our employees."

"We will do what is necessary to prevent a detrimental impact on students and classroom instruction," Hebert said. However the budget cuts have affected all areas of the university's operations, including instruction. "Class and lab sizes are larger, some class sections are offered less frequently and we have postponed technology upgrades and library book purchases," he said.

In June, Hebert announced a layoff avoidance plan that included suspending merit increases for all classified and unclassified employees, including faculty. The freeze on all merit raises is effective through June 30.
"Mid-year cuts are especially difficult because about one-half of the budget has been spent and the majority of the budget is dedicated to salaries and related benefits," Candace Townsend, McNeese director of public information and communications, said.
When word of the latest mid-year cut came, McNeese announced plans to suspend all open employment searches. Townsend said a limited number of critical need positions had been approved and those will be reevaluated and prioritized under the new budget reduction plan. "We anticipated a mid-year cut and factored that into our budget planning process," Townsend said. "However this $2.1 million cut is larger than last year's mid-year cut and comes off a much smaller overall budget."

McNeese received approval to implement a 5 percent tuition increase effective for the fall semester.  "Funds generated by the tuition increase have helped to lessen the impact of the budget cuts," Townsend said. The tuition increase for McNeese students averaged about $85 for the fall semester.