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Budget Challenges 2012-2013

TO: University Community

FR: Stephen T. Hulbert

RE: Budget Challenges 2012-2013

You are aware of on-going deliberations before the Legislature regarding the 2012-2013 Operating Budget and, more specifically, the implications of projected cuts to health and higher education.

From direct involvement in those deliberations, I am only too aware of just how confusing the picture must appear with regard to the actual projected impact on Louisiana’s two and four-year colleges and universities. Media coverage of the Governor’s Executive Budget and the Legislature’s own House Bill 1 (HB1), which is the 2012-2013 operating budget document, make it almost impossible to get a clear picture of the financial implications for the individual colleges and universities as well as for the faculty, staff, and students each serves.

Additionally, as we know from direct experience here at Nicholls, developing a clear understanding of the funding picture requires one to take into account both the past history of budget cuts as well as the fact that budget reductions have a varying impact across the affected colleges and universities. Simply stated, while all colleges and universities are facing dramatic reductions, the smaller the institution, the more susceptible that college or university is to damage from significant budget reductions.

Since the 2008-2009 year, public higher education has experienced seven instances of budget cuts or annual reductions in state support. With the close of the 2011-2012 fiscal year on June 30th, Nicholls has lost $13.7 million in state support amounting to a cumulative 38 percent reduction against the beginning budget of 2008-2009.

If the current version of HB1 passes, Nicholls will face a $7,749,575 cut against the beginning of the 2011-2012 budget. That would make the total loss of state support dollars since 2008-2009 $20,282,884, which represents a 56.42 percent reduction over the five year period in question. This would bring our total state support from $35.95 million in 2008-2009 down to $15.67 million in 2012-2013!

In the last week, the House has altered its position regarding the use of one-time dollars thereby permitting the Senate to consider a budget with these resources. Should the Senate pass such an amended budget and the House subsequently concurs, the budget cuts facing Nicholls will be reduced to $4,523,062. However, even that level of reduced state funding support will have a dramatic impact on the University.

The level of budget cut still facing the University necessitates careful planning and an effort that focuses first and foremost on maintaining, as much as possible, the stability of the academic program and the student population served by that program.

Our local Senate delegation is playing a major supportive role during these difficult budget discussions. As opportunity presents itself, please express appreciation to Senators “Bret” Allain and Norby Chabert for their leadership with the Senate Finance Committee. Additionally, appreciation goes to House members such as “Gordy” Dove, “Truck” Gisclair, Karen St. Germain and Sam Jones for their individual support in using one-time dollars to at least partially reduce the impact of the proposed cuts.

I will keep you apprised as we move through the final week and a half of the legislative session. Additionally, I am scheduling a briefing for campus leadership from the student body, faculty and staff to provide more detailed information, including activity necessary to plan for a balanced operating budget for the 2012-2013 year ahead.

While much of this message has focused on the impact of projected budget cuts at the University, I am only too aware that it is people–faculty, staff and students alike, who are being hurt by these cuts and threatened cuts. I know everyone is suffering from not knowing what lies ahead. To each of you goes my thanks for your continued effort to keep Nicholls doing the important work for which it was created. I understand only too well just how difficult that effort becomes in light of further threats to the financial stability of the University and to the people who give it life.

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