Dear Members of the university community:
On Friday the Florida Legislature passed the 2009-2010 state budget that spares our public universities from catastrophic budget cuts.
FIU and our sister Florida universities will see a 15 percent drop in recurring General Revenue (GR) since the Legislature approved a 4 percent cut in Special Session just last January. In one year’s time, we’ve received a $35 million cut in GR and lottery support. In the past two years we’ve received a $51 million reduction in recurring GR and lottery funding.
However, we know next year’s cut could have been much deeper, given the multitude of demands on the State budget. Our Legislature embraced the idea that universities are economic engines and the last place to cut when the objective is to revitalize the economy. The Senate, in particular, understands that universities are key to the new knowledge economy. Our cuts will be partially offset by a tuition increase and one-time federal stimulus funding.
Gov. Charlie Crist is now poring over the details in the budget which he is expected to sign in the coming weeks.
Nowhere is the Legislature’s understanding of the importance of universities more evident than in the full funding for our College of Medicine. In August, our first medical school class will arrive on campus and we will be able to say to them, and to the thousands of Floridians who will benefit from this enterprise, that the College of Medicine is firmly on track to become a model of medical education in the 21st Century. This funding is a bright spot and we thank our legislators for their support.
The relief and appreciation we feel must not be confused with contentment. This budget contains a significant amount of one-time federal stimulus money that will dry up in a year or two. By that time, we anticipate realizing additional revenues from increased tuition, for example, but we will still be severely under funded. We, as leaders in higher education, must continue to be vocal about the inadequacy of the way universities have been traditionally funded in Florida.
Just this decade the universities have seen a steady decline in funding that started in earnest in 2004-2005 when the Legislature abolished the Board of Regents, instituted boards of trustees for each university and decentralized key functions such as financial management, human resources and student records. These new responsibilities, together with functions related to the new governance structure, became unfunded financial obligations.
Devolution, as this is commonly called, had an immediate impact of more than $30 million and a recurring implication of more than $10 million a year when you consider personnel expenses, maintenance contracts and system upgrades. The state never funded us to perform any of these functions, so in essence this became the first of many years of budget cuts.
Furthermore, Florida is among the states that invest the least in higher education per student, while our tuition is also one of the lowest in the nation. That’s a simple formula for an under funded system. In the coming months, the state university presidents will be promoting a greater awareness of the importance of our universities in our state’s economic future. We hope all of you will get involved in this public discussion.
In the meantime, these are just some of the reasons why we must become more disciplined and strategic in our approach to budgeting. We will continue to pursue our multi-year budget reduction strategy. Deans and vice presidents have submitted their proposed cuts. These proposals are going through a review process that includes discussion at the Faculty Senate, the Budget Stabilization Committee and, of course, our Town Hall meeting.
The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, May 18 in the Graham Center Ballrooms, University Park. As in the past, the meeting will be broadcast live to Biscayne Bay Campus, where members of the community will be able to participate from the Wolfe University Center Ballrooms. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend. We will be having an important discussion about the future of our institution.
Upcoming dates that are key to FIU’s budget process include:
- Town Hall meeting: May 18, 2009, 10 a.m.
- 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 by sending me an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Modesto A. Maidique