Experts say cuts can be positive

Analyzing budget cuts and their effects on the university often involves looking at smaller classes, lost jobs and downsized departments. But not all news is bad news in “Budgetland”, according to some.

While most would agree that cutting the budget isn’t a good thing, some say it can bring about positive effects.

USF lobbyist Kathy Betancourt said budget cuts can sometimes make legislators better understand the importance of programs which are oftentimes overlooked. When cuts come around, these programs are brought into the limelight, because even minimal cuts could destroy them.

Two examples Betancourt gave were statewide programs for autism and deafness and blindness.

“Families come in and remind legislators of what (the programs) are doing,” Betancourt said. “Sometimes people forget what (the programs) did and realized why they started them in the first place.”

Another positive effect rendered by statewide budget cuts is the ability to make cuts at the local level, as opposed to having legislators in Tallahassee decide what programs should be cut. The power, Betancourt said, is transferred to the university president and the Board of Trustees.

In prior years, Betancourt said, legislators would cut, where they saw fit, a certain portion of money from specific programs at a university. But now, with power at the local level, Betancourt said each university is given a dollar amount to cut – and what gets cut is left up to those who know what’s best for the university.Betancourt gave an example: “You can make the decision not to cut mandated, exit-level courses because people need them to graduate.”

Nevertheless, “Everybody got burned a bit,” Betancourt said.Carl Carlucci, vice president for Budgets, Human Resources and Information Technologies, said while there is nothing good to be gained by cutting the budget, it does elicit some results that aren’t bad.

Carlucci said that many programs have a “natural life cycle,” and sometimes budget cuts force programs that have become outdated to shut down or sunset.

He said legislators look for programs like these – that have defined time frames and defined goals – and they target them for cuts. Otherwise, Carlucci said, the program becomes pointless if it exceeds its timetable and/or hasn’t accomplished its goal.

“Sometimes, the government has a program, and it drags on and on,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci said sunsetting programs that have seen their day is a good thing, but he still said there is nothing to be gained from budget cuts.

One example of a program that could be potentially eliminated is the USF program responsible for the usage of dial-up modems on campus. Carlucci said that the university spends about $200,000 so that students and alumni with dial-up connections can log onto USF’s server from anywhere in the world. But with technology inevitably moving away from dial-up modems, Carlucci said the university is beginning to consider moving on.

“Everybody is getting high-speed connections and ISPs,” Carlucci said.

“Should we move to newer technology? Budget cuts push us to do that.”

Carlucci acknowledged that some will be upset when modems are phased out, but out of all USF students and alumni who would be capable of connecting to the USF server, “the number of people using modems is very small.”

“Budget cuts may cause us to sharpen our pencils and be more aggressive, but I can’t call that good,” Carlucci said.

“We should be able to do things without (being forced by cuts).”

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