Florida’s spiraling economy may hit the USF campus in the form of budget cuts next year that could total more than $14 million.
Gov. Jeb Bush issued an executive order Wednesday to call a special legislative session where legislators will decide the extent of budget cuts ranging from state agencies to universities.
During the week of Oct. 22 – Nov. 1, one of the things legislators will iron out is exactly how much the state’s 11 universities will have to trim from their already tight budgets.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Florida’s economy is in a slump because of the drop in tourism. Bush called the special session because the state needs to balance its budget.
Last week, the legislature asked universities to look at the possibility of a 5 percent cut from their fiscal 2002-03 budgets. But some say cuts could go as high as 7 percent.
Carl Carlucci, vice president for Budgets, Human Resources and Information Technology, said it is still too early to say where the cuts will come from.
“There will be impact, we just don’t know what,” he said. “We’re looking at standard things that would allow us to save money this year and next year.”
Some of those standard “things” include travel, equipment purchases and discretionary items.
Carlucci said the goal is to keep the cuts from affecting academics as much as possible.
“The first goal is to protect enrollment and academic programs,” he said.
With a 5 percent cut scenario, Carlucci said that would amount to about a $14.1 million loss for USF.
“Even that’s not small,” he said.
A cut of that size would affect academics at some level. To save money, many universities in the same position enact hiring freezes, which later translate into less faculty and fewer classes being offered.
“It’s certainly something we would look at,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci said he and President Judy Genshaft can make recommendations on what should be pared, but that colleges and departments will also get a say.
A Tuesday news release from the Governor’s Office said that one of Bush’s priorities includes education. “Flexibility should be given to the universities, community colleges and school districts as long as direct classroom instruction is protected,” the statement said.
While Carlucci works on the budget from his campus office, USF lobbyist Kathy Betancourt is in Tallahassee making sure the university gets a fair deal.
“I want to make sure USF doesn’t suffer more than anyone else,” she said from Tallahassee.
While the cuts are inevitable, Betancourt said she hopes they do it in a “lump sum” with the universities deciding from where the cuts will come.
“That isn’t something that’s done from Tallahassee,” she said.
Betancourt has been traveling up to Tallahassee to lobby for USF for about 27 years and said she is not sure if the next round of budget cuts is the worst she has seen.
“It’s a real crisis situation,” she said. “It’s pretty bad.”