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Eye On Boise

Nellis: ‘How slim a margin we have’

Legislative budget writers were very keen this morning to ask about the University of Idaho’s net asset balances, which reports show at $38 million to $40 million. “How much of that unrestricted assets could be used in economic difficulties like we’re in now, in order to keep the University of Idaho tracking at the same level?” asked Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. UI President Duane Nellis responded, “We’ve looked at that very, very carefully. Many of those dollars are either matches on grants that have been committed, or startup packages,” such as commitments made to new professors who come on board to purchase equipment for their research. “When we took the 6 percent reduction the governor ordered earlier this year, we used part of that as a way to bridge - it was one-time money - instead of taking a furlough,” Nellis said, “although we’re at the edge now where we think the next round of holdbacks will trigger a furlough.”

The university’s executive director of budget and planning then told JFAC that unobligated funds available to the UI at the end of fiscal year 2009 were $2.6 million, and that money was tapped in the fall term for the holdbacks. Nellis said with the size of the infrastructure at the UI, “that’s how slim a margin we have at a major university” to cover such things as disasters, snowstorms, roof leaks and the like. “I worry about that, and taking more of that given how limited our funds are,” he said. Cameron responded, “We worry about those same things. … We’ll look forward to spending our reserves together.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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