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UNC system's budget request smallest in 20 years

Posted November 13, 2008
Updated November 14, 2008

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— The University of North Carolina Board of Governors plans to ask state lawmakers for the smallest increase in funding in 20 years as campuses try to cut costs in the sluggish economy.

The board is expected to approve a $3 billion budget Friday that would require an extra $168 million in state funding, a 5.8 percent increase over the current budget. The second year of the two-year budget calls for an even smaller increase of 4.3 percent.

Last year, the board sought a 12 percent increase in state funding.

"It's a very reasonable, focused and prioritized request, a very lean request," said Rob Nelson, vice president of finance for the UNC system. "We'll do what we always do – we'll manage through this – but it's always a tough time."

All but about $50 million of the funding request will go toward salaries, student financial aid and public safety initiatives, officials said. The safety programs have been a priority for the UNC system since the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.

The board's Finance Committee trimmed campus requests for other items from almost $200 million to the $50 million level.

"I think you never fail to take advantage of a crisis," UNC President Erskine Bowles said. "We are in a crisis, so this is a time for us to eliminate some of those things that are less valuable to our students and continue to invest in those that are more valuable."

Chancellors at the various campuses have already cut the current year's budgets by 4 percent, and officials have told them to work toward a 5 percent cut next year.

"It's very hard once you get behind the curve as the year goes on to catch up, so we are trying to stay ahead of the curve," Bowles said.

The decisions on where to make cuts is left to each campus.

North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University have left open some vacant positions, eliminated some travel and postponed buying some equipment. UNC-Chapel Hill officials have asked each department to look for ways to trim its budget.

"The reality is that our education historically has been well supported in North Carolina. So, while it is challenging, it is doable," N.C. Central Chancellor Charlie Nelms said.


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  • Scarecrow Cow Nov 13, 2008

    News 14 ran a story today about UNC Charlotte's plan to significantly student raise fees *every year* until 2013 to buy a stadium for a football team they don't yet have. What a waste! They should postpone that and use the money for something useful. I know football is important to some students, but athletics should always take a back seat to academics.

  • Mobile Geek Nov 13, 2008

    Maybe Mrs. Easley can take a cut in salary for the good of everyone.

  • Mobile Geek Nov 13, 2008

    Too bad it takes an economic meltdown to cut budgets that could have been cut to begin with.

  • GWALLY Nov 13, 2008

    ...sst100...says.."Clearly GWALLY doesn't understand much about economics..."

    Well sst100...I have been a business owner since 1984. And YOU are most assuredly correct....I absolutely DO NOT understand YOUR so called economics...!! Get out and see how it works for YOU in the REAL WORLD!!!! You will be back working for someone else in less than 90 days!!!

  • whatelseisnew Nov 13, 2008

    Ah you geniuses that think cutting Government is not the way to go; please tell me where the money comes from to pay for a larger budget? Here is what needs to happen. Whatever, the state gave the college system last year must be cut in half at a minimum. The colleges need to reduce staff and they need to cut the pay of remaining staff. I would say about a 40 percent pay cut for anyone earning over 100,000 and a 30 percent pay cut for anyone earning 75 to 100. Then smaller percentage cuts as you move down the pay ladder. Next benefits need to be cut. If their is a 401K match that needs to be eliminated or reduced. Similar measures need to be eliminated Statewide. It surprises me that so many of you are unable to see the train wreck that is headed our way. By the way, they will not have a problem filling positions. There are going to be a huge number of people available that are unemployed.

  • sst100 Nov 13, 2008

    Clearly GWALLY doesn't understand much about economics... yes, governments and schools ARE different. While every organization, private and public, can probably afford to reduce some spending, much of the spending done by governments and schools are services that become more valuable (because they are even more needed) during a recession. Additionally, schools and governments are tax-funded, which enters into the dynamic by which they can deliver services (as compared to a private business, which can change its price for services more easily).

    Maybe GWALLY can get into one of those overcharging schools for an economics class soon.

  • TheBullCity Nov 13, 2008

    Are you suggesting that the universities should be downsizing? This would involve server less students and conducting less research. I don't see how that is going to help the economy?

    In a recession, the universities serve more people and thus require funding growth. They are, however, trimming the fat and only asking for what is needed to provide core services.

  • GWALLY Nov 13, 2008

    This is the way typical gov. offices and schools work......they ask for a smaller increase in the budget this year than last year.....and trumpet it as a COST CUTTING budget......people....(and those with the degrees and letters before and after their names).....listen up.......5.4% increase is STILL AN INCREASE!!!!!!!!! COST CUTTING in the REAL WORLD is a DECREASE in SPENDING.....!!!!

  • FloydTurbo Nov 13, 2008

    so adding millions more for football programs should be "no probllem" ... Right? Even though the $$$ arguably come via different sources, the perception is that certain programs are exempt from belt-tightening.

    Should prove very "interesting" to watch unfold.