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Idaho universities tightening belts

THURSDAY, NOV. 27, 2008

UI, Boise State to begin slicing budgets

BOISE – Officials at the University of Idaho and Boise State University are preparing to cut their budgets up to 5 percent in anticipation of reduced state spending.

The schools are expecting Gov. Butch Otter to announce the decrease, attributed to falling tax revenues, sometime after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Otter has already ordered a 1 percent budget holdback statewide, saving $27 million.

He has also warned he will likely ask agencies to cut an additional 1.5 percent to save $41 million.

University of Idaho President Steven B. Daley-Laursen recently put out a memo stating he expects cuts up to 5 percent.

“We are awaiting word, which may come from the governor this Tuesday, as to whether that expected percentage will increase,” Daley-Laursen said in a memo posted on the university’s Web site.

Several weeks ago, Boise State University officials told staff to propose budgets to reflect a 5 percent cut. That’s a reduction of $4.3 million.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, co-chairman of Legislature’s budget committee, said the schools are acting prudently in planning for the worst.

“I know the governor is doing a good job in trying to minimize the holdbacks and look at ways we can balance our budget,” Cameron said.

“Even though I have said agencies need to be prepared, I also don’t want citizens to panic. Our state is in better shape than most.”

Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chairwoman of the budget panel, has said a 2.5 percent holdback probably wouldn’t be large enough.

However, more than $300 million has been set aside by Idaho lawmakers to offer some short-term stability.

“It does take several years to get through these challenges,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. “We recognize the value of the money we set aside, but that we should not exhaust it quickly.”

Money collected in the state’s overall general fund was $12.8 million below what was predicted for October. School officials said the current economic conditions could persist.

“We also believe that, given the turbulent economic conditions, holdbacks will continue and possibly increase in near-future years,” Daley-Laursen said.

The school is imposing travel restrictions, he said, eliminating some face-to-face meetings when a phone call or video conference will work.

But he said traveling for meetings that could create new revenue sources will generally be allowed.


 

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