The Texas State Legislature is trying to correct a $1.9 billion budget deficit, which is now causing Sam Houston State University to cut $2,587,00 from the university budget.
SHSU President James Gaertner sent a memo to the campus community explaining that the governor’s office is requesting the university reduce its budget between now and Aug. 31.
However, the memo stated no jobs at the university would be eliminated because of the budget reduction and SHSU would be fine financially.
The memo also requested that the university have a plan for the budget cut by Feb. 4. No new budget positions from any fund source would be approved until the final plan was submitted in early February.
Donald Freeman, SHSU professor in the department of economics and international business, said the budget problems for the state are expected to be even larger next year.
It is possible that the university has enough funds set away to handle the budget cuts this year, but next year many departments will have to cut something, although what will be cut has not been decided yet, Freeman said.
“There is a bigger deficit coming up next year, almost $10 billion by some estimates, and it is a problem that is bad and without any further measure will get even worse,” Freeman said.
Budget problems for the state of Texas began with an economic decline, which caused tax revenues to fall, thus making the revenues less than what most people had anticipated, Freeman said.
Another issue affecting the budget problem is the state’s spending commitments, which included primary and secondary education along with commitments to the prison system.
“(These commitments) take a lot of money and both those populations are growing, that is to say the population we have to educate and also the population we have to supervise in prisons will probably start growing again and that and the other commitments we have with the lower tax revenues you have a tax deficit,” Freeman said.
The Texas Legislature is working to correct the $1.9 billion problem in the budget with a limited number of options, but officials said they are trying to correct the problem without increasing taxes.
“It is going to be a very difficult problem and the governor and the leaders of the state legislature, both the speaker of the house and the president of the Senate, have all said that they want to do this without increasing taxes, but it is going to be a very difficult proposition for them to do that,” Freeman said.
The Legislature will either have to control spending, cut back on spending or increase revenues either by raising taxes, fees or some combination of the two. The Constitution says there cannot be a budget deficit at the state level.
“Higher education is one of those areas that falls into discretionary spending which means that there are certain types of state spending like highways and again primary and secondary education where the state really cannot cut their spending very much,” Freeman said. “Where they can cut their spending is for higher education and so what it means for Sam is that it is very likely that we will have another round of tuition or fee increases because our support from the state level is likely to either be diminished or certainly not grow.”
SHSU Vice President for Finance and Operations Jack Parker said there would not be any tuition increases immediately unless the Legislature changes the tuition law.
“With any budget, it is a financial plan, it has an estimated budget and an estimated expenses,” Parker said. “Actual revenue is down. There are 48 other states in the union that are having the same problem that we have been insulated from for a couple of years, but it has finally caught up with us.”
Each of the four vice presidents from the departments will make recommendations in line with Gaertner’s request for suggestions on how to change the university’s budget.
With Sam Houston being a part of the Texas University System it will be a part of the Texas State University plan because there are seven other schools in this system that have to do the same thing, Parker said.
“It is a time to be very calm and deliberate and we will comply, of course. This is the third time I have experienced this and, in my opinion, it is not fun,” Parker said. “Particularly since we work on budgets, we are just going to live on less dollars.”