Governor approves state budget package; NU faces less cuts than originally proposed

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The finalized state budget package reduces NU funding by $11 million this year and $6 million next year. The original proposal included a $23 million cut in appropriations for 2018-19.
Cassie Wade

The Nebraska Legislature approved the state budget package on Tuesday, which included University of Nebraska funding. Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the package Wednesday.

Though the governor’s original proposal included a $23 million cut to NU for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the final approved budget package reduced the cut to $6 million. The original proposal for this year’s appropriation still stands at $11 million.

Chancellor Jeffrey Gold said in a phone interview that although the cuts are less than originally planned, they still add to the $46 million budget gap that has impacted NU since the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“The additional cuts, which are 2 percent for the 17-18 year going back to July 1, and an additional 1 percent for next year, 18-19, are just going to sit on top of that,” Gold said.

Gold said the final numbers of the budget package signed by Ricketts result in a collective budget decrease of 3 percent to NU.

“While it is better than what was originally proposed this year, which was 2 percent and 4 percent, it’s still a very significant challenge for all of us to work with,” Gold said.

He said that going forward, NU will be working with students, faculty and staff members to get input and share information on what the impact of the budget cuts will be.

As of now, Gold said university leaders, such as college deans and department chairs, are going through the list of potential areas of impact, which was created in January.

“What we have to figure out is what of those will be completed this year, what for next year and if a gap exists,” Gold said. “My hope would be that there’s no gap going forward into next year and the cuts we made this year will be enough, but I’m guessing it won’t be.”

Gold said the recommendations made by university leaders will be examined by the vice chancellors who will then pass their recommendations on to Gold. Gold will then make a recommendation to NU President Hank Bounds. All of NUs campuses will then be integrated into the budget.

Though the budget cut numbers have been finalized and signed by the governor, NU still faces other uncertainties while navigating its budget.

“There’s always some uncertainty about enrollment and retention,” Gold said. “We can estimate what the incoming class is going to look like, what the revenue is going to look like and what our research grants and contracts are going to look like, but it’s nothing more than an estimate until we actually get into the year.”

Gold said more information will be available regarding the budget in a month. A Board of Regents meeting in June will determine salary pools, tuition changes and the university budget.

University of Nebraska at Omaha Student Body President Carlo Eby said he credits the reduction of cuts NU received in the finalized budget package to the activism of NU and its supporters.

“I think it was the students who wrote letters, it was the calling, it was the NU Advocacy Day we had earlier in the semester,” Eby said. “All of those little things add up to ultimately showing the importance of the university.”