SDSU still facing state budget cuts

Tony Gorder

Tony Gorder

SDSU will still see its fiscal year 2009-10 budget reduced by almost $1 million despite nearly $348 million in federal stimulus money added to South Dakota’s spending plan.

That is, if Gov. Rounds signs the proposed budget.

“It doesn’t become final until the governor signs it, and he may in the next two weeks decide not to sign it, and then we’ve got another animal to deal with,” said Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the president.

“I understand that cuts need to be made; everyone is making sacrifices with the economy the way it is,” said Brittany Holzbauer, a sophomore engineering major from Wagner, S.D. “It’s unfortunate SDSU didn’t get any direct stimulus money.”

In regard to operating money from the federal stimulus, SDSU will not see that money directly.

“None of (the stimulus money) was for higher education, so the operating money from the federal government will not have a direct impact on higher education,” said Otterson. “Where (the Legislature) could use stimulus money to replace state money, it did that. What it allowed the state to do was to pay for some services and functions with federal money and then use that state money in other areas.”

SDSU’s cuts break down as such: the university proper was decreased by $354,611, a .52 percent cut. The Cooperative Extension Service lost $200,000 and Agriculture Experiment Station will see $421,883 less-cuts of 2.34 percent and 3.90 percent respectively. The total decrease in the budget comes to $976,494.

“We probably were saved from a bigger cut with the stimulus money funding that they’re able to use, for instance, in things like Medicaid,” said Wes Tschetter, assistant vice president of finance and business.

This decrease does not include the $600,000 in maintenance and repair funds the state was to give SDSU for four years. For many years, maintenance and repair came solely from student tuition; this plan would have changed that by providing state money for four years. This current 2008-09 fiscal year, SDSU received the $600,000, but will not continue to as originally planned in light of the current economy.

“It was huge when the governor recommended and the Legislature approved that we would get state general funds (for maintenance and repair). We were supposed to get it next year again and add to it for four years – $600,000 then $1.2 million then $1.8 then $2.4,” said Tschetter. “It’s probably the most important policy impact affecting our campus. It doesn’t put faculty in the classroom, it doesn’t pay the fuel barrel and it doesn’t improve equipment in the classroom or in labs, but it does affect the university’s infrastructure.”

This means that SDSU will have to choose priority over strategy when it comes to maintaining and repairing buildings, said Otterson.

“If we were targeting a window replacement in a specific building, that now will have to take a backseat to what now might be a more urgent need, such as roof repair or something like that,” said Otterson. “Our buildings are safe, that’s not the question, but the priorities for the physical facilities on campus will need to be much more stringent ? the difference will be that the university probably cannot do what is considered routine or preventative maintenance on buildings to the degree it would like.”

Though officials do not know yet, SDSU could possibly see capital money from the federal stimulus – money used for buildings in order to create jobs in both the construction of the building and within the building once the project is completed.

“If any of that capital money comes, the university has identified a handful of projects that meet the qualifications for the federal money – the stimulus capital. Those proposals have been submitted and briefed to the Governor’s Office,” said Otterson. “The key is they have two projects that are ready to go now. The federal government has given the state a very narrow window of time in which to start spending that money.”

Whether or not student tuition rates will be affected by these cuts has yet to be decided.

“That, ultimately, will be determined by the Board of Regents, probably at its April meeting,” said Otterson.

“There’s nobody saying, ‘Okay, we lost $354,000 in state funds; we’re going to raise tuition to pick it up,'” said Tschetter.

SDSU is “realistic” when it comes to the cuts, Tschetter said.

“Unfortunately, higher education is the one area of education that’s growing, yet we took a cut,” he said.