BGSU braces for further cuts

Joel Hammond and Joel Hammond

As the University recovers from $2 million in cuts to its budget in the past semester alone, it begins to brace itself for what could be another large cut to state funding as the new biennial budget is hammered out in Columbus over the next two months.

The $2 million cut over the past three months corresponds with what legislators term the state share of instruction, formerly known as subsidy. Bowling Green, like every public higher education institution, took a 2.5 percent cut from their SSI based on the latest cuts in Columbus, according to Chris Dalton, the University’s senior vice president of finance.

Higher education in the state, over the past three years, has been cut by a total of $313.6 million, or nearly $1,000 per full-time student in the state.

This semester’s cut affected many departments on campus, according to Dalton.

“For the $2 million cut this spring, the vice presidents and deans were assigned targets for their areas and colleges,” he said. “The targets amounted to 0.89 percent of the budget for instructional areas and 1.78 percent for non-instructional areas. In most, but not all cases, areas and colleges generated sufficient funds to cover the cuts from the savings that resulted from the hiring freeze which has been in place for awhile.”

The new budget proposal first drawn up by Ohio Governor Bob Taft was, susprisingly to many, in favor of higher education. Taft’s proposal featured small increases each year of the budget, which would stretch until June of 2005. The state House of Representatives, however, made monumental cuts to the original budget, cutting $6 million for FY 2004 and nearly $9 million for FY 2005.

“The problem that keeps happening, and this past semester’s cuts are a prime example, is that we are continuing to fall behind the rest of the country as far as education goes,” said Larry Weiss, the University’s associate vice president for governmental affairs, said. “Statistics show that the state’s per capita income and the amount of people participating in higher education are directly related, and right now, that relation is not good.”

The state’s Senate finance committee will now hear testimony from numerous groups, including the Ohio Board of Regents. Later in May, representatives, including a BGSU student, Holly Haines, and three higher education associations representing public four-year, public two-year and private schools will meet with the committee.

Once the senate approves their version of the budget, members of both houses must meet in a conference committee, from which a compromised bill comes.

“That is obviously a very difficult task, especially this year, when both sides are so far apart on the issue,” Weiss said. “Making it even harder is the fact that they have to accomplish this task before June 30, when the Fiscal Year 2004 budget begins.”