University to see cuts as result of 2012 proposal

Kristine Young

Kristine YoungNews Editor

Only one day after Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced his budget proposal, SDSU President David Chicoine addressed how a possible loss of nearly $4.7 million would affect the university.

“What will happen this year, we don’t know,” Chicoine said, speaking at the Jan. 20 town hall event in SDSU’s Agriculture Engineering building.

Daugaard’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget calls for a 10 percent cut in spending. This would equal a $127 million reduction in state expenditures. Chicoine said that with the proposed budget, SDSU could expect to lose close to $4.7 million in state funding, compared to last year’s $1.4 million cut. It will be the third year in a row that faculty will not be given raises, and the roughly $4.7 million cut in state funding could be equivalent to about 75 full-time positions at SDSU.

“I tried to put a human face on the dollar amount,” Chicoine said.

Gary Aguiar, associate professor of political science and president of the South Dakota Council of Higher Education, said it would be hard to lose that much money and not cut some positions.

“I imagine administrators have been looking for places to cut that will do the least damage to the university, like temporary hires and adjunct or part-time lecturers,” Aguiar said.

Laurie Nichols, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said no pay raises might affect faculty morale.

“It takes a toll every time you go another year, but folks are understanding and realize it’s not just higher education that is taking the hit,” Nichols said.

Chicoine said that with the decline of state support, tuition rates could rise. Aguiar agreed, saying that he sees a rise in tuition as very likely.

Nichols said the budget cuts also present challenges in future enrollment and existing programs.

“It’s not a matter of looking at a single factor,” she said. “It makes it harder to keep growing and we have to figure out how much bigger we can get with less resources than we had before. I hope students realize this is not unique to our state and that they can still get a quality education at SDSU,” she said.

Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the president, said that despite budget cuts, SDSU can still expect growing numbers.

“This university has tremendous momentum right now. Students feel it and the public and neighboring states recognize it. It would be difficult to slow down that momentum,” Otterson said.

Otterson said most building projects will not be affected because they are largely supported by donations.

Nichols said support staff for any new buildings could put a strain on the budget.

I think [construction] could slow down a little because we need to get our arms around the budget. It won’t bring everything to a screeching halt; it’s just a matter of reanalyzing and figuring out where we’re going,” she said. “Staffing new buildings puts a strain on our budget and we have to take a hard look at this.”

Nichols said the university is making attempts to cut spending.

“We’re doing some real work on fringe benefits and working with the units in the colleges on that. I challenge the campus to see if we can save $1 million on fringe benefits, because it’s money we don’t have to cut elsewhere,” she said.

Chicoine said that since the budget has not been approved yet, things could change. He said he doesn’t know if the 10 percent cut will stick.

“Every vested interest will argue they are more deserving than anyone else, and I don’t know how far those arguments are going to go,” he said.

Daugaard will be traveling around the state to talk about the proposed budget and Chicoine encourages people to get involved.

“It will be important as we go through the next steps for people to express their views before the legislature takes responsibility,” he said.

Chicoine said that final budget bill will come out in mid-March and will be signed into law in late March or April. After that, the South Dakota Board of Regents will meet at SDSU from March 31 to April 1 to make university budget decisions.