Budget cuts still in negotiation

When the special session ended Thursday, the Florida House had passed a $797 million in budget cuts-cuts that the Senate said would be unconstitutional.

But on Friday, Gov. Jeb Bush said that the tension was lifting from the Legislature as its leaders began peace talks. The leaders of the Legislature aren’t the only ones trying to come to an agreement; USF administrators are trying to get the best possible result without cutting faculty.

Ron Jones, dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said that the administrators met on Thursday to make decisions on cuts along with the sharing of budget numbers, the process and the difficulty of making decisions.

“We are trying to find possibilities and options,” Jones said. “Good things happened.”

Jones said that he and the faculty of his college were under the impression that they would have to make a 5 percent cut for this year and next, or a total of 10 percent. Yet they are now clear that it’s only a 5 percent cut, he said.

“A 10 percent cut would have meant full-time positions,” he said.

Jones also said that he understood that the College of Visual and Performing Arts had an equal amount of cash for this year to make up some difference.

“We can do this, we think, without force or mad cutting of positions and classes,” he said.

Last Wednesday, the Student Theater Production called an emergency meeting to discuss the repercussions the budget cuts will have on the fine art program. Students were concerned that the college’s most valuable teachers and staff would not have jobs left.

Students said they felt certain programs were being protected because they give the college an image and asked why not cut those instead of teachers.

“It’s a simple solution to the problem,” Jones said, responding to the Legislature decision. “It’s easier to cut state agencies than to tax.”

Jones said that the university is more than a place to learn. “A university has a lot of charges with working and with higher technological programs, which is an important role that USF plays,” Jones said.

One area that the students suggested to cut was the Graphic Arts Studio and the Contemporary Art Museum because they don’t support students like the fine arts program does.

Jones said that Graphic Arts Studio and the museum are not curricular, but have other purposes.

He also said that both programs are just as underfunded as the curricular classes are and did receive an equal cut or even more of a cut last spring as well.

“It’s not easy. Everyone thinks their thing is important and shouldn’t get cut,” he said. “Then how would we cut?”

Jones said that all administrators made a final plan last week, and everyone was in agreement.

“No one spoke out to disagree with the final decision of the categories and consequences the college would see,” he said.

The chairpersons, directors and Jones reviewed the plan and talked about the most they could cut without affecting the students.Jones said that units now are getting money figures together to make their own decision on how much they (the unit) would cut and then report back to him.

“They were told before the meeting how much to expect,” Jones said.

Jones said that by today or Tuesday, the college should know its plan, but won’t really know what will be cut.

Along with that, the college is looking for the least harmful things, such as team teaching or similar courses, to be cut first.

Jones said he wanted to clarify the e-mail that he put out Wednesday regarding the budget cuts.

He said the e-mail was a suggestion and a proposal that had a sequence, and the last possible resort was people cuts.

“The more information we have, the better we can make a decision,” Jones said.

Provost S. David Stamps is in charge of directing each college in the cuts. He said that the cuts are somewhat difficult and things will change for all colleges.

Stamps said that the governor has to look at the budget.

“The governor has 15 days to accept it, veto it or just veto a certain section,” he said.

USF will submit the total cut for each college to Stamps, and then he will wait to see what the governor does with the bill. Stamps said that if there needs to be an adjustment, it will be made.

  • Contact Stefanie Greenat oraclestefanie@yahoo.com