State bureau reveals budget lapse details
By Justin Dolan
Questions remain regarding the impact and scope of budget cuts for the UW system as students attend classes this spring.
The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau approved $250 million in cuts for system institutions across the state Feb. 15.
“This lapse adds to the, historically, biggest cuts ever to the University of Wisconsin System in one year, totaling $250 million plus $46.1 million, for $296.1 million...” Matt Guidry, communications director of the United Council of UW Students, said in a recent press release.
University officials stated last year that although the UW system represents about 7 percent of the state’s general purpose revenue expenditures, it is being asked to absorb nearly 38 percent of the cut, according to an Oct. 18. press release.
The bureau released an official report following its decision.
The report stated that many schools would be forced to delay purchases, maintenance and upgrades to facilities, as well as hold open some vacancies in administrative and non-institutional areas.
It also detailed the use of one-time funding from “tuition carryover funds”, which are accrued when actual tuition revenues exceed budgeted revenues due to greater amount of enrollments than anticipated.
Ray Cross, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW-Extension, is concerned about a misperception in the state about how the UW system will handle the cuts.
“The feeling is that the University can absorb the cuts easier because we have tuition [and] other ways to generate revenue, which is not entirely true,” Cross said.
The UW-Fox Valley campus will be responsible for $133,360 of the lapse, according to Martin Rudd, CEO and campus dean.
“It is a real cash giveback…the hope is this is a one-time giveback,” Rudd said.
UW-Fox’s proposed cuts are decided through a biennial budget process.
The two-year budget begins July 1 of each odd numbered year, concluding on June 30 of the next odd numbered year.
Cross hopes the impact on students is minimal.
“We will continue to be austere...we're doing everything we can to keep [the budget lapse] from impacting students in a bad way,” Cross said.
Rudd noted the work of UW-Fox’s faculty and staff to minimize the impact of cuts.
“Through the campus curriculum committee, we are working to ensure we don't offer sections where there are large numbers of empty seats, while maintaining a variety of class of class times, formats and day options,” Rudd said.
“The 2011-13 budget proposed by Governor Walker included giving the UW operational flexibilities to realize savings and help absorb reductions in state aid,” Cullen Werwie, press secretary to state governor Scott Walker said in a statement Feb. 20.
“In the budget a task force on UW restructuring and operational flexibility was created, which is currently studying the system’s governance structure and will recommend changes to university practices,” Werwie said.
He also stated that Walker made “tough decisions necessary to balance the state budget without increasing taxes.”
Cross noted that some are concerned about Walker's use of one-time money in the form of a federal mortgage settlement to the state.
“[Walker's] argument is that the economy is turning around in Wisconsin, so it's appropriate to use one-time money in this case”, Cross said. “I think an additional lapse at this time would be devastating, if not almost impossible for us”.
The United Council of UW Students is responding with a long-term grassroots campaign to prompt legislators to represent students and community members that care about education.
The campaign #WI NEED TO TALK aims to motivate students to talk with their legislators about the importance of higher education, and get students to the polls.
The group plans to make 60,000 contacts to students across the state to remind them to vote and address current issues in state legislation.
Cross believes the process offers an opportunity to educate politicians.
“I would hope that we can help educate our politicians with respect to the value of higher education and what it means to the future of this state,” Cross said.
Marc Sackman, associate professor of music and member of the UW Colleges Senate Budget Committee, encourages students to vote in upcoming elections.
“If 80 or 60 percent of students voted, it would be politically dangerous to cut,” Sackman said.
For more information about the budget and its impact on higher education, visit budget.wisc.
To get involved with the student advocacy group United Council of UW Students, log on to UnitedCouncil.