By Kristin Zagurski
The Nebraska Legislature’s special session closed Aug. 15 leaving the NU system with over $15 million less in funds for the 2002-2003 fiscal year.
The cuts were about $5 million less than the $20.3 million that had been proposed by Gov. Mike Johanns but they will still have an "adverse impact" on UNO and the entire university system, said Derek Hodgson, UNO’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
He said he is "very concerned" about these new cuts, which come on top of the $15.8 million in cuts the university system has already taken for the fiscal year.
"We really don’t have very much flexibility left," he said.
According to the state unicameral’s Web site at www.unicam.state.ne.us, a minimum of $100 million in budget reductions were necessary to ensure the state could meet its financial obligations.
The final approved cuts totaled $108.8 million in general fund adjustments.
The cuts for the NU system absorbed almost $15.3 million of those cuts, with UNO, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Nebraska Medical Center taking $2.3 million, $7.5 million, $1.2 million and $3 million in cuts respectively. The remainder of the funds, a total just over $2 million, was cut from the NU Central Administration and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.
The bill that appropriated the cuts, LB 2, passed by a 45-1 vote.
NU President L. Dennis Smith testified in front of the Legislature during the session, which began July 30, and urged them to make higher education a priority in Nebraska and reduce the amount of the cut.
According to a press release, Smith said that it is unfair that while the university system represents 16 percent of the state’s budget it is being asked to shoulder 32 percent of its reductions.
University officials are now faced with the arduous task of deciding what programs or positions to eliminate to cover the financial deficit the university system now faces.
Smith said the university’s system of dealing with cuts is: "To preserve its core mission — undergraduate education; to aggressively seek federal and private grants and contracts to support its research programs and to continue to provide services if statewide funding is available."
He said a state statute set’s the university’s priorities in the following order: 1) teaching, 2) research and 3) outreach and public service.
Smith said in July that the cuts could lead to the reduction of majors offered and the elimination of tenured faculty members.
Each of UNO’s vice chancellors will submit proposals to Chancellor Nancy Belck in early September, who will make recommendations to Smith.
Smith will announce the final decisions on the cuts sometime in mid-November.