NMSU cuts budget by $12.1 million
By Brook Stockberger
Las Cruces Bulletin
New Mexico State University Chancellor Garrey Carruthers and the school’s board of regents could see the proverbial handwriting on the wall: diminished enrollment and state budget cutbacks meant NMSU would have to tighten its belt.
The university unveiled its plan to cut $12.1 million from the fiscal year 2017 budget Wednesday, July 13.
Among some actions taken, NMSU will:
• Completely cut the equestrian program;
• Close the employee health center;
• Eliminate the engineering surveying program;
• Cut three faculty positions;
• Cut 34 staff positions;
• Permanently eliminate 89 vacant positions; and
• Reduce administrative salaries of $100,000 and above Carruthers said the cuts came out of a long, difficult process. A variety of people at the university spent “thousands of hours” to come up with the budget solution.
“Some people don’t sleep well,” he said.
“This just didn’t happen overnight,” NMSU Board of Regents member Jerean Camúñez Hutchinson said. “You have to adjust to the market.”
The university reports its fiscal year 2017 budget stands at $622 million. Of that total, $56 million is for plant funds while $566 million is for current funds, most of which are locked in and cannot be cut for various reasons. There is $178 million in unrestricted funds from which NMSU had to find $12.1 million in cuts.
Carruthers said times are tough in higher education all across the country.
“It’s a national trend that college enrollment is down,” he said.
Carruthers pointed out that many schools are in significant deficits due not just to the enrollment situation but also to an economy that still feels the aftershocks of the Great Recession. In New Mexico, oil and gas revenue is down, which puts considerable pressure on the state’s budget and directly affects how much money the government is able to appropriate to NMSU. Carruthers said NMSU economist Jim Peach told him the “only revenue going up is income tax.”
Cuts are difficult, Carruthers said, but “we have an obligation” to protect the best interest of the school.
Kaitlin Nelson dropped her mother off at the airport Wednesday and got back on the highway to Las Cruces where she would work with her NMSU equestrian teammates to get ready for the upcoming season.
“As I drove home from the airport, I got a phone call,” the 19-year-old Michigan native said about how she learned the program had been cut. She said she would not see her family again until Thanksgiving. “We’ve given up so much. We’re a team of the most hard-working students at NMSU.”
Other members of the team spoke at a meeting of the NMSU Board of Regents Wednesday.
Las Crucen Hallie Padilla pointed out many of the team members had opportunities to go to other schools but came from all over the country to compete for NMSU.
“We’re all heartbroken,” she said.
Carruthers said all scholarships for the team members will be honored and any of those who wish to transfer can do so without NCAA penalty.
Nelson, though, said the timing of the announcement left the Aggie riders in a tough situation.
“Thirty days is not enough notice (to find a new team),” she said.
NMSU Regent Mike Cheney said the decision was not easy.
“It breaks my heart seeing students not being able to do what they want to do,” he said.
The university will continue to operate the Student Health Center, but the employee location will be shuttered.
Carruthers said, since NMSU also pays for health insurance, the school felt this was a cut – which’ll save more than $600,000 – that made sense.
Still, he said the school has made an arrangement with a private-sector health center that will hire any employees that lose their job and also provide services for NMSU employees. In the not-too-distant future, he hopes the employee health center will reopen on campus, run by a private- sector company.
No tuition increase
Earlier this year, the school’s administration had asked for a tuition increase to help offset the budget shortfall, but the Board of Regents voted against an increase.
Cheney said he voted against the move. He said a bump up in tuition is not a panacea.
“We need some (longterm) solutions,” Cheney said. “We have a ways to go.”
He said a 1 percent increase in tuition would bring about $1 million into the budget. To cover the shortfall with just a tuition increase, the university would need to raise it 12 percent, a big number.
Christopher Brown, an associate professor of geography and the chairman of the faculty senate, said he believes some action in the area would be better than nothing.
“Consider a modest tuition increase,” he said to the regents.
The elimination of the engineering surveying program will affect 16 students and three faculty members. The savings will amount to about $340,000.
I& G transfers
NMSU will keep some of the instructional and general funding monies it usually gives to various programs and areas. The largest comes from the athletics department. The department will see a reduction of $454,301, which makes up 11 percent of its I& G funding.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture will lose all of its I& G funding to the tune of $217,012. The action will save the university about $1 million.
In addition, those who make $100,000 or more will see their salaries cut by 1 to 3 percent depending on how much they make.
NMSU has eliminated retiree health coverage for anyone hired after July 1, 2016, will eliminate sick leave payout benefit and cut annual leave accrual.