Latest State Budget Proposal Dominates Town Hall Meeting

Posted: December 19, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

The proposed additional budget cuts for Mason and other state agencies for the 2009-10 fiscal year were the focus of the Dec. 18 town hall meeting conducted by Senior Vice President Morrie Scherrens and Provost Peter Stearns. Approximately 150 staff and faculty members attended the meeting in the Johnson Center Cinema, while others at the Arlington and Prince William Campuses participated via teleconference.

The cuts to Mason’s budget, as announced earlier in the week by Gov. Timothy Kaine, total approximately $11 million. This is in addition to the $9.8 million in cuts imposed upon the university for the current fiscal year.

The budget cuts announced by Kaine were in response to a revenue shortfall in Virginia expected to top $2.9 billion.

Scherrens and Stearns said that while these additional reductions were not unexpected, they still constitute a significant challenge. They said all university units will be called upon to make further reductions in their budgets for the 2009-10 fiscal year. On the average, they anticipate instructing units to reduce their budgets by approximately two percent.

Other highlights of the meeting included:

  • Scherrens and Stearns cautioned that the governor’s proposed budget cuts have yet to be approved by the General Assembly and therefore are not yet locked in. However, any changes the General Assembly makes in its upcoming session could mean an upward adjustment in the totals announced by Kaine.
  • The salary increase deferred until July 1, 2009, has been indefinitely suspended.
  • There will be no cuts in student financial aid nor in safety resources for employees and students.
  • The budgets cuts will in all likelihood result in restructuring at the university. The specifics of this have yet to be determined.
  • The governor did not recommend imposing any caps on tuition and fees on universities for the next fiscal year.

Over the past 25 years, Mason and other public universities and colleges have been directed to make significant budget cuts six times.

Scherrens and Stearns pledged to make future budgetary deliberations and decisions as transparent as possible and encouraged all members of the university community to work together in this process.

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