Reassuring members of the Texas A&M International University faculty and staff that the University would survive last week's announcement of a current budget year cut of 7%, Dr. Ray Keck, TAMIU president, outlined the University's response to the mandate in a University meeting yesterday.
"Our momentum will be slowed, but we enter into this crisis in a position to handle and weather the storm. This institution has always demonstrated very careful handling of its finances and resources and this will serve us well in the months ahead," Dr. Keck said.
Keck announced immediate efforts aimed at helping the institution to return the mandated 7% of its general revenue budget to the State.
"As per the Governor's directive, we now have a temporary hiring freeze in place and have eliminated all non-statutory out-of-state travel. Our summer school schedule, already pared back from last summer, will go ahead as planned, and we hope to increase sectional offerings by having faculty and administrators teach additional sections. We are looking at summer school salaries and more efficient use of all equipment for additional savings.
"In addition, we are currently developing a plan for a possible four-day work week this summer, which would require four 10-hour work days with the University closing Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A partial Killam Library operation would be maintained," he explained.
The closure would also impact the many groups that utilize University facilities for events and special initiatives, he noted.
If approved, these reductions, coupled with additional internal cuts to operating budgets and travel, should enable the University to return nearly $900,000 to the state before the end of the current budget year, Keck said.
He praised the efforts of The Texas A&M University System to assist the University.
"They have been extremely helpful in helping to identify ways to blunt this trauma and have themselves absorbed 2.4% of the 7% cut mandated by the State. In addition, they have lowered the System assessment, or fee that our University pays to the System, for vital services such as legal, human resources and investment management, by 7%. They are in constant communication with us concerning movement in Austin and their counsel has been pivotal," he explained.
Keck was adamant that TAMIU faculty or staff reductions would only be considered as a last option.
"We've already heard of other institutions who are considering furloughs and staff reductions, but we do not believe that these are options that we need to explore at this time," he said.
He noted that the larger concern remains what the new fiscal year will bring. Early indications from Austin seem to forecast that budgets will be reduced anywhere from 12.5% to 15%. A 12% cut would translate to almost $8 million for TAMIU. In addition, all institutions will have to justify all of their reduced budgets.
"We find ourselves in a vulnerable position. Because of our phenomenal growth, a cut of that enormity would have far-reaching ramifications for programs and services and the last thing we want to do is reduce student opportunities. There is also considerable concern that tuition revenue bond projects, such as our construction of our Phase IV Science Building, could be halted," he said.
Despite the sobering news from Austin, Keck remained optimistic and urged the University's faculty and staff to follow suit.
"We are cooperating energetically and positively. We all have worked diligently and without pause to make this University a success. We feel that the University's greatest strength is that we have delivered on the charge given to us.
"Since the last funding biennium, we have seen our enrollment grow 24.6% and our semester credit hours, upon which our funding is based, climb 30%. If anyone has led South Texas in making higher education affordable and accessible, it is Texas A&M International University. What a blow it would be to our students if that path were to be subject to detours and delays," he concluded.
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