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Volume 68, Issue 92, February 10, 2003


UH gets state deadline extension

By Nikie Johnson
Senior Staff Writer

The University was granted an extension to file its 2004-2005 appropriations request to the Texas Legislature on Friday.

In light of the $9.9 billion budget shortfall Texas is facing over the next two years, the UH System was asked to request 15 percent less than it had planned, University officials said. That amounts to $58 million less than the System was hoping to receive in state funding.

The request, which all state agencies must file with the Legislature at the start of each biennial session, will be filed today at noon. The original deadline was Friday.

In the meantime, the Universityis vice presidents are struggling to cut 2 percent out of their budgets for the rest of the current fiscal year, which will end Aug. 31. They have been asked to make the cuts with a minimum impact on students, but it is likely that the entire UH community will feel the crunch.

All state agencies, including public universities, were asked to cut part of their budgets for FY03. State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander announced Jan. 13 that Texas is facing a $1.8 billion budget shortfall for this fiscal year, so almost no state agency will be getting as much money as it expected.

In light of that news, Gov. Rick Perry asked all state agencies to reduce their spending "by an amount equal to at least 7 percent of (their) FY03 general revenue appropriation."

"Everybody was surprised," Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Edward Sheridan said. "The comptroller never mentioned there might be a cut for this year (before Jan. 13)."

That state money makes up 30.5 percent of UHis total budget of $532 million this year. So, the cut amounts to little more than 2 percent of the total budget, or $11.4 million. That plan was submitted to the Legislature on Thursday.

President Arthur K Smith announced last week that UHis central administration could cut $8.1 million, mostly by delaying maintenance around campus that isnit absolutely necessary.

He asked UHis eight vice presidents to cut 2 percent of their budgets to finish up the deal. This way, each department of the University can make cuts to fit its own needs. The vice presidentsi plans are due to Smith by Friday.

Smith said he didnit want to impose campus-wide hiring freezes or require a certain number of workers to be dismissed. He did, however, say the University will not fund out-of-state travel or consulting fees until Aug. 31.

Sheridan, one of the eight vice presidents, said he is working now to make the required cuts in his department, which oversees all the colleges. His plan, similar to Smithis, is to defer to the deans, who he said would know what is best for each of the colleges they oversee.

"Iim letting each dean arrive at 2 percent, because the colleges differ so much," he said. "All are looking at what they could cut."

He said his office is working as hard as it can to make sure students arenit adversely affected by the cuts.

"Weire very committed to trying to protect the summer session as much as we can," Sheridan said. He knows students depend on summer classes, he said, so the only classes that might be eliminated are the smallest ones, because they are the most expensive to offer.

Although the Athletics Department doesnit receive any state money, it was asked to cut its expenditures for this year by 2 percent of what it spent last year.

Athletics Director Dave Maggard said the departmentis main focus is to increase the amount of donations coming in, although his staff is also looking at ways to cut spending.

"Weire launching a very aggressive annual fundraising program here in the next couple of weeks," Maggard said.

He said heis also hoping to decrease expenses. "Weive gone through every department, every sport, and weive been trimming."

He said heis eliminating some positions, and has cut back on the amount of travel that athletes will be doing.

Heis also counting on more income because he plans for the football and basketball programs, most universitiesi moneymakers, to improve in the near future.

"Athletics at the University of Houston has been going down for many years, but weire trying to get it turned around," he said. "We will meet this challenge . Weire going to turn this around. We must, and we will."

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