By Stephen Gipson
The Daily Toreador/Big 12 Syndication
Texas Tech president Guy Bailey hosted a town hall meeting Friday to meet with Tech faculty, students and alumni on the uncertainty of looming budget cuts in Texas’ higher education.
“The reason we’re here today is because there is a current shortfall of $4.3 billion in the state budget for the biennium we’re currently in,” Bailey said during the meeting, which was hosted in the Citybank room in United Spirit Arena.
Jennifer Wainscott, a senior journalism major from Windsor, Colo., said she attended the meeting to find out what the budget cuts mean for her personally.
“I want to find out how they’re going to affect my finances and my education track,” Wainscott said. “My concern is that the university will be more concerned with the cuts rather than with the students.”
Trevor McDonald, an investment finance and real estate finance major from Arlington, said he wanted to hear what the budget cuts would mean for students and how he should plan for the coming years, including scholarship and tuition planning.
“I want to get rid of the uncertainty of having somebody that is in control and has a plan on how to react if we do get really big budget cuts,” McDonald said.
The state budget for the 2012-13 biennium is estimated at $72.2 billion in general revenue available, Bailey said. The state’s budget for the current 2010-11 biennium is $87.7 billion, he said.
Bailey said to maintain the current services the state provides, it is estimated Texas would need $99 billion for the 2012-13 biennium.
“What that means is there’s a budget shortfall somewhere between $14.8 billion to $26.8 billion,” Bailey said. “This is for the next biennium.
We’ve got two separate issues here. A shortfall in the current biennium of $4.3 billion and a projected shortfall in the next biennium of somewhere between $14.8 billion to $26.8 billion. It will be a while before people know for sure.”
He said to accommodate these budget cuts Tech has done current-year fiscal reductions of 5 percent, $12.8 million, and an additional 3 percent, $3.2 million.
He said budget cuts for the next biennium are still undetermined.
Bailey said it is important to know the budget cuts are being taken out of the education and general revenue budget, which is 32 percent of Tech’s budget. He said the majority of the salaries at Tech are paid through the education and general revenue budget.
Because Tech was notified in the middle of the current biennium, Bailey said, Tech had limited options of how to cut its budget.
“We were able to do a lot of reductions by simply not filling vacant positions right now,” Bailey said. “We may fill those in the future, but we’re simply able to hold off on some hiring and take care of a fair amount of this.”
He said Tech has dealt with its budget cuts in large because of faculty having to do more work. Bailey said the student-teacher ratio has risen from 20:1 to 23:1.
After Tech realized its budget would be cut significantly, a budget-working group was put together compromised of several faculty and administration members, Bailey said. The budget-working group met bi-weekly and proposed recommendations on how Tech can cut its budget. More than 41 recommendations are being reviewed for implementation.
He said he does not believe all 41 will be put into effect.
A critical-needs hiring review committee also was created to carefully manage the hiring of faculty. Bailey said Tech does not have a hiring freeze.
“We don’t have a hiring freeze. What we do have is we are scrutinizing every position. Remember, you don’t want to hire and then have to fire,” Bailey said. “You want to be cautious and careful going into a legislative session like this, and, again, we don’t know what the results are going to be.”