LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) - Like their counterparts at other higher education institutions across the state, officials at McNeese State University are bracing themselves for another possible round of budget cuts, following lower than expected state tax revenues for the month of February.
On Wednesday, the Jindal administration asked state agencies to re-examine their budgets to see what areas could go with significantly less state funding during the last three months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30th.
Higher Ed has been warned that $84 million in cuts could be imminent.
"No decisions have been made," cautioned Gov. Bobby Jindal (R - Louisiana). "At this point we're asking agencies, based on the unspent general state funds they have, what would they do if these numbers in March turn out to be consistent with February."
The task of deciding what unspent state funds could be returned to Baton Rouge is made even more difficult for McNeese, because the university just cut $2 million from their budget midway through the fiscal year. Furthermore, the university, like other state agencies, is 3/4th of a way through the fiscal year, meaning most of the money has already been spent.
"It would be the fourth budget cut in a little over sixteen months that higher education has been given," said McNeese Public Relations Director Candace Townsend. "Every expenditure that we're making is being carefully studied before it is approved."
Townsend said the university is now operating with fewer employees doing more work. The university was also forced to cut travel, supplies and other equipment from the earlier budget cut. Townsend admitted that students may have to pay more out of their pockets too.
"An increase in tuition for the fall semester, and possibly even summer school is a possibility," said Townsend.
Townsend said university officials, some of whom had been in their jobs for decades, could not remember a time when higher education was asked to take a budget cut this late in the fiscal year.
Townsend was hopeful the governor and legislature would find a way to stem higher education institutions from having to take more cuts.
Jindal said it will all depend on what March figures show.