Budget Cuts May Deepen
By John Durham
As world, national and state economies falter, East Carolina University leaders are taking a careful look at programs and operations as they prepare for even deeper budget cuts across the campus.
ECU is already dealing with a one-time 4 percent reversion of its state appropriations for the 2008-09 fiscal year. For the university, that means about $10 million, and it is being managed by a number of measures, including leaving vacant positions unfilled and curtailing travel and purchases.
More painful, permanent budget cuts are widely anticipated when the new General Assembly convenes in Raleigh in the spring to develop a state budget for the 2009-2011 biennium.
“We must be prepared for the very worst scenario,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said. He also stressed that the university must protect its most important strategic priorities.
“This will put added pressure on low priorities and under-performing programs and services,” Ballard said. He said the budget reductions are likely to force some job losses as well as the elimination of some programs at the university.
Ballard urged vice chancellors to lead by example in developing responses to diminished funding. He encouraged them to aggressively and continually seek cost-reduction strategies such as consolidating positions and partnering with other divisions or departments to reduce costs.
Ballard also stressed the importance of communication as the university works through its response to budget reductions. “We must be open and transparent as we deal with these difficult issues,” he said. “This is not a time for mystery or silence.”
Kevin Seitz, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said that the university’s total budget for the current fiscal year is about $750 million, of which about $268 million is in state appropriations. Other major sources of revenue are student tuition and fees, patient services, grants and contracts and private gifts. Some revenue streams such as grants and gifts tend to diminish during times of economic turbulence.
Seitz said that senior administrators welcome suggestions for saving money and cutting expenditures. He noted that the University of North Carolina General Administration, in guidelines for implementing budget reductions last summer, had suggested that a number of areas be considered for reductions, including:
• Academic administration
• Public relations and advancement
• State-funded activities that are not directly related to student enrollment and course delivery
• Low productivity and low-enrollment programs
• Vacant positions
• Middle management
• Program consolidation