Dear members of the university community:
As you may know, the House and Senate passed their respective budgets last week. This week the House and Senate will be holding conference meetings to resolve the differences between the two preliminary budgets. Major differences in funding between the two budgets still exist, and that is cause for concern.
The Senate budget, as it stands, makes a permanent cut of 9 percent in the primary source of state revenue for universities. In the case of FIU, this equates to a $16.4 million cut. The House budget cuts general revenue 24 percent, which equates to a $43.7 million permanent cut for FIU.
We have been preparing for a cut of 15 percent, which is between that of the House and Senate. All of our units have submitted plans that we will begin to analyze this week. A cut of the magnitude that the House is proposing would be devastating to us. There is just no way to deal with a 24 percent cut without severely affecting our students, our employees and our program offerings.
Today the Legislature is expected to begin the conference process to resolve differences between the two bodies. This normally routine process promises to be especially challenging unless the House and Senate can come to an agreement on sources of new revenue. The Senate has already agreed to increases in cigarette taxes and expanding Seminole Indian gaming revenue. Other options on the table include corporate tax reform and the elimination of a small number of sales tax exemptions.
The conference process is expected to conclude no later than April 26 so that the budget may be printed and made available to members of the Legislature the required three days before the final vote.
A bright spot
There is some good news. As I wrote last week, the House and Senate still remain in agreement on nearly full funding for the two new Colleges of Medicine at FIU and University of Central Florida. Differences remain in the sources of these funds that are being appropriated, but their commitment to fund both programs is resolute.
Our message remains the same
I was in Tallahassee last Friday, and I can assure you that the entire FIU team continues to remain fully engaged in the budget process and continues to track the bills and proposals that are of interest to State University System universities. As always, our message continues to be that shrinking universities is not a good economic recovery strategy.
Less than two weeks remain for supporters of FIU to communicate with their legislators, during their own personal time and using their own personal resources, about the importance of funding education. The Governmental Relations website will continue to post updates on the session and provide tools for members of the university community to share their views with our legislators.
Other news of note
I want to congratulate our Athletics Department on its most recent appointment, basketball head coach Isiah Thomas. An NBA Hall of Fame player and former coach of the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks basketball teams, Coach Thomas brings instant national exposure to our institution. Paraphrasing Coach Thomas, he said, “We all have ups and downs in our lives and FIU will be an up.” As we endeavor to build an athletics program that is recognized nationally, I know that this hiring is a huge step in that direction. In the days and weeks ahead, please join me in extending a warm welcome to Coach Thomas as he joins our FIU family.
Dates to remember
I continue to urge you to stay abreast of FIU’s evolving budget situation as the legislative process moves forward. Last week, as per the university’s previously published timeline, program-closure documents were submitted to the provost. Upcoming dates that are key to FIU’s budget process include:
• Unit restructuring and program closure documents submitted to Faculty Senate: April 27
• Legislative session ends: May 1
• Town Hall meeting: May 4
• FY 2009-10 budget loaded into PeopleSoft: May 8
• Special meeting of Faculty Senate: May 26
• Recommendations due from Faculty Senate: May 26
• Final reduction plans due for all university units: May 29
• Board of Trustees Budget Workshop: June 1
• Board of Trustees meeting: June 12
As always, I thank everyone who is keeping abreast of this budget process. We want you to be informed because we need your participation and input. Please continue to share your thoughts at meetings, informal gathering or by sending me an email message at presmail.fiu.edu
Modesto A. Maidique