JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Making the Best of an Awful Situation

September 29, 2003 -- Given the reduced level of tax collections projected for 2004, the Alabama education budget that was passed during the Special Session could be described as “making the best of an awful situation.” While the universities appreciate the efforts of the Riley Administration to provide equitable treatment for all of education, public education will still experience significant budgetary and program related challenges. The universities acknowledge the effort to maintain level funding for our operations and maintenance; however, our faculty, staff and students will experience pain from the cuts to important line items and the multiple unfunded mandates.

The unfunded mandates are most clearly illustrated in the decision to require the universities to pay the cost of health insurance for our retirees. This cost has always been considered an obligation of the state. However, under the present budget scenario, it must be paid from the universities’ budgets. Another illustration of an unfunded mandate is the change in the way the state pays for the employer portion of retirement for active employees. Since the legislature chose to ignore the traditional method of calculating the state’s requirement, the universities are now being asked to absorb additional costs for active retirees.

When the bottom-line of the new budget is calculated, the universities, as a whole, actually receive a reduction from their available operations and maintenance funding of approximately four percent. When line items are added, some individual institutions even experience greater cuts.

It is important to acknowledge the severity of this year’s budget cuts to education because it clearly illustrates that the need for additional state tax revenue is real! We must be persistent in our call for long-term solutions.

For more information, contact Gordon Stone of the Higher Education Partnership at 334-220-2161.


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