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Volume 62, Issue 3

November 20, 2009

Cliff gets bigger; chancellor, UBAC promote understanding

Faced with the potential for a steeper than expected financial “cliff effect,” Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Brian Burnett turned to members of the University Budget Advisory Committee Thursday for help.

The “cliff effect” is the term used by CU to describe the perilous position of Colorado public higher education funding. State funding may be reduced by as much as 60 percent or $10 million for UCCS, a fact that is not obvious to many because federal stimulus funds are being used to backfill the budget. As a result, UCCS has not furloughed faculty and staff, terminated positions or eliminated programs.

The problem? Federal stimulus funds are set to expire and may be depleted in as little as 15 months.

“We are leading in tough times by not putting our heads in the sand and hoping it all gets better,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “We thought – and I have been saying – that we have on the order of 20 months to increase our revenues and decrease our expenses in preparation for the removal of federal funds and the likelihood that the state economy will not recover. The reality is that it’s now more like 15 months and we still have a number of folks who simply aren’t understanding.”

Shockley-Zalabak, Burnett and Dale DeBoer, associate professor, Economics and UBAC chair, encouraged UBAC members to talk with colleagues and to attend a forum dedicated to the budget. The forum is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Dec. 3 in the University Center Theater.

“The issue got bigger and it hit sooner,” DeBoer said. “It is imperative as faculty and staff members that we share that message across the campus and encourage our colleagues to engage in meaningful dialogue.”

Burnett outlined the magnitude of possible problems while emphasizing that there are few definitive answers and considerable discussion likely in the General Assembly beginning in January.

“There is a Dec. 18 revenue forecast that is going to tell us a lot about whether it’s going to be happy holidays,” Burnett said.

The December revenue forecast – an analysis of state tax collections – will be a key factor in the actions that Gov. Bill Ritter and the members of the General Assembly must take to balance the state budget, Burnett said. Another forecast is scheduled in March 2010 and in April, the General Assembly will recommend funding for state agencies for FY 2010-11 which begins July 1, 2010.

See President Bruce Benson’s Nov. 13 budget memo here.

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