SDSU could see millions in cuts

Ellen Nelson

Ellen Nelson

SDSU could see millions of dollars in cuts when the South Dakota Legislature decides the next fiscal year’s budget next week.

The Legislature’s Republican leadership has proposed 2 percent across-the-board cuts for state government, excluding K-12 funding and Medicaid, but Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the president at SDSU, said that number could go lower or higher depending on which amendments are kept in the current proposal.

At an overall budget of about $224 million, a 2 percent cut means a $4.5 million reduction in funding for SDSU.

Released earlier this month, the Republican budget proposal built on and modified the budget that Gov. Mike Rounds presented to the Legislature in December. The Republican proposal seeks to balance the budget without reserve spending, while Rounds’ proposal did tap into reserves.

“This was a long and difficult process to go through,” said Rep. Bob Faehn, House Majority Leader, in the press release. “We have attempted to treat equally all departments of state government.”

Apart from the across-the-board cut, proposed reductions for the University Technology Fellowship program, Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station will affect SDSU. The Republican proposal calls for a $770,000 reduction in the Student Technology Fellows program, which would ultimately eliminate this Board of Regents’ program at SDSU.

The STF program is currently designed to spark students’ interest in technology while these students assist the university with technology-related projects. Some of the STF program’s responsibilities are to help faculty with creation and preparation of D2L courses, software and hardware advice and developing university Web pages and applications, along with supporting technology-enhanced classrooms.

SDSU tech fellow Dan Woodward, a junior software engineering major, has worked in the STF program for four semesters and does not want to see the program disappear.

“I think it’s definitely a great program,” said Woodward. “The faculty is really going to feel a huge gap from all the work that we do for them. The university will have to fill that somehow.”

Another reduction for SDSU in the Republican proposal is the elimination of unused positions in the Cooperative Extension Service, which amounts to a $400,000 cut. The Agricultural Experiment Station could see a $500,000 reduction in their travel request. Last year, the extension service and experiment station saw $600,000 in cuts combined.

With a heavy agricultural background, Elliot Kinnander, a sophomore agricultural business major from Armstrong, Iowa, said he does not agree with these cuts and reductions.”We’re a land-grant institution and a huge factor for a lot of agriculture students to come to school here is because of our strong (extension) programs,” Kinnander said.

According to the Agriculture Experiments Stations’ Web site, results of their work can be seen on a regular basis, such as through the stations’ research contributions toward the growing biofuel industry in the state.

The Legislature has had a tough job this year in determining which programs to cut or keep, Otterson said, and the job is not done yet. Legislators return to Pierre on March 29, and Otterson said they will continue to look at anticipated state revenues in comparison to their financial obligations, such as Medicaid payouts, K-12 education and state corrections.

“Legislatures have a lot of factors to include on determining what the final budget will look like,” Otterson said.

wlkerwllhjkghEditor-in-chief Amy Poppinga contributed to this report.wlkerwl/lhjkgh