The President of Missouri State University says the state legislature needs to work out its differences to avoid withholdings that are compromising school budgets.
Clif Smart recommended to the MSU Board of Governors in June to pass the Fiscal Year 2015 budget as is, noting that the school had a plan in place should certain monies be withheld.
That plan is now playing out following Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement to withhold more than $1 billion from the state budget.
The Missouri Legislature had approved a boost in higher education funding, averaging five percent for each institution, based on performance measures. For Missouri State, which met each of its goals, the funding increase was 5.2 percent, or just over $4 million.
“We are on hold pending the veto session to see what of that new money, if any, we receive,” Smart says.
In his announcement in June to withhold money form the budget, Gov. Nixon cited 10 bills approved by the General Assembly on the final day of this year’s session resulting in tax breaks for various businesses. He vetoed the bills, saying it would drop state revenue by $425 million. The Governor has stated he’ll restore the performance funding to higher education and the foundation formulate if his vetoes are sustained this September.
Republicans have called the Democratic Governor’s withholding tactics hostage-taking, and that it contradicts Nixon’s stated desires to invest in education.
In the meantime, Missouri State has delayed implementation of a 1.5 percent across-the-board increase in all campus operating budgets.
“We had not had any increase in operating budgets in seven years. In fact we’ve had decreases. And so we wanted to get back on track with increasing those as inflation [increases]; we’ve withheld that money – that’s about $400,000 or 10 percent of that [reduction].”
Smart adds that a projected influx of students this fall that was not factored into the budget will give the school some flexibility to the tune of about $1.5-2 million in new income, which covers about 40 percent of the budget reduction. It’s that enrollment growth, Smart says, that will help buoy MSU during this time, but is not a luxury every school in Missouri can lean on. He says additional shortages will be covered through reserves until at least September, at which time the school does anticipate some monies to be released.
“If it’s not going to be released we’ll have to do some additional shuffling around and some reallocation of money but we think we can get through it.”
Smart predicts a meeting of school administrators from the state’s 4-year institutions in September will bring the topic of a mid-year tuition increase.
“Part of the deal we all made with the Governor and the legislative leaders is we’d hold tuition flat for our Missouri undergraduate students if we got the five percent increase. Everyone acknowledges if that money doesn’t come we’re gonna have to reassess that.”
While Smart hopes MSU won’t have to implement such a measure, the outcome of September’s veto session will determine how education leaders will plan to get through the rest of the fiscal year.