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Volume 68, Issue 117, Monday, March 24, 2003


UH must rework budget plan

By Nikie Johnson
Senior Staff Writer

UH officials are scrambling to retool their plan to cut this yearis budget after a new ruling from State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

The good news is they got a $2.5 million break on how much has to be cut.

The bad news is they will have to find a new way to make the cuts, since the source they had been planning to use to make most of the cuts from has been declared off limits.

Strayhorn announced in January that Texas was going to fall $1.8 billion short of a balanced budget this year unless the state reduced its spending or found new sources of revenue. Since Texas is required to maintain a balanced budget, the state demanded that almost all state agencies cut 7 percent from the part of their budget that comes from the state, called the general revenue appropriation.

UH thought it had to include the money it gets from the stateis Higher Education Assistance Fund in that cut, and therefore figured the amount it had to cut as $11.4 million.

HEAF money, which can only be used on capital projects like construction or maintenance, was to make up the bulk of the cuts. UHis central administration found $8.1 million it could cut, almost all of which was from HEAF money. The remaining $3.3 million came from each of the Universityis departments; each vice president was asked to cut 2 percent from his or her budget.

But Strayhornis ruling told UH that it shouldnit have counted HEAF money in the equation at all, UH President Arthur K. Smith told faculty members Wednesday at the Spring Faculty Assembly.

That means UH only has to cut $8.9 million ­ but none of it can be HEAF money.

"Weire left with a $5.6 million problem that we have to fix," Smith said.

The solution Smith and his administration are trying is basically to change the ways $5.6 million worth of projects are funded.

Smith said they were looking for projects that are funded with general revenue money that could instead be paid for with HEAF money.

"Weire busily trying to find ways that we can switch pockets," Smith said.

Since the administration already found ways to cut from the HEAF budget, it hopes that money can be diverted to other projects that can help UH comply with the mandatory 7 percent budget cut.

But since HEAF money can only be spent on specific things, that may not be possible, Smith said.

"If necessary, we might have to hit the fund balances," he said.

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