Colleges and universities will take a 6 percent hit under Gov. Butch Otter’s new budget holdbacks, as will community colleges - even as they see enrollment swell due to the down economy. Asked how higher ed will handle that, after already taking big budget cuts, Otter said, “I don’t know - that’s why they’re managing their shops. I suspect every campus will look at it in a different way.” University presidents were involved in meetings yesterday and are working on their own plans. “They don’t like to hear it, I don’t like to deliver it, but it’s the reality,” Otter said.
The biggest percentage holdback is hitting the state Labor Department, at 39.1 percent, but it’s one-time savings due to a balance in a penalty and interest account shifting to the general fund; it would have done so anyway at the end of the fiscal year. Second-biggest is 11.4 percent at the Department of Commerce, but that’s also one-time savings, due to unexpended grant funds. The governor divided agencies into three categories: “Critical and constitutionally required services,” such as the state police and elected officials, which are being cut back from 2.5 to 5 percent; “essential services,” from higher ed to public health districts, which mostly will see 6 percent cuts; and “other services,” which mostly will see 7.5 percent holdbacks.