Money Talks

Should USF dip into the millions stored in its rainy day fund to shelter itself from the state’s storm of budget cuts, or tuck its funds away to help weather future downpours?

That’s the quandary Leroy W. Dubeck — a Temple University physics professor and National Association Budget Handbook author — will give  a  presentation about USF’s financial situation today at 2 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center.

Dubeck, who garnered attention for raising awareness of the $240 million USF had left untouched in its unrestricted reserves, will discuss not only whether the University has spent — and saved — its funds in the most prudent manner, but said he plans to explain the budget issue in a greater context by assessing the administration’s fiscal decisions in light of the nation’s worsening economic state.

“The recession hasn’t hurt USF as of June 30, but what happens in the future is a different question,” Dubeck said. “We know what happened in the past, but different people may have different opinions about what might happen in the future, and that factors into what the administration might want to do with the money.”

USF spokesman Michael Hoad said the USF administration is “very afraid” of the upcoming Florida legislative session in March because it could set the stage for further budget cuts in July even greater than last week’s cut of 4 percent.

Hoad said he supports Dubeck’s appearance and hopes it will be helpful to Student Government, the Faculty Senate and the United Faculty of Florida’s USF chapter, but said the deciding factors on how the money will be spent are the Legislature’s budget cuts and the national recession.

“You start to have no flexibility to deal with an additional cut,” he said. “It’s much harder to deal with — you can’t just do a little bit of cutting here and there. If there are more cuts in July, it could become very serious.”

Dubeck also said the recession would be a deciding factor, but thought the House of Representatives’ proposed stimulus package — which would provide $39 billion to public schools and universities to combat cutbacks — would help benefit a university coping with the latest round of budget cuts.

“(President Barack) Obama wants this done quickly. I think he will get most of what he wants, but I can’t guarantee the bill — I’m no Nostradamus,” Dubeck said. “Florida will see $1 or $2 (billion) of those $39 billion, which is no small pocket change, and an increase in Pell Grants for students of $15.6 billion. I think your problems will be solved with that kind of money.”

Dubeck said he’ll address the potential impacts of the stimulus package and Obama’s plans to boost the economy at the presentation.

Ultimately, one of the presentation’s major goals is to inform the public about the University’s budget and spending, said Faculty Senate Vice President Steve Permuth.

“There is a lot of miscommunication (between the Senate and the administration),” he said. “When the issue of the $240 million was raised, there was kind of a silence at first, and what we were trying to say is that the issue was there. (Provost Ralph) Wilcox said that there is a plan for the reserves, but I don’t know how many people have seen it.”

The conference is free and open to the public and will be followed by a panel discussion.