Despite the looming 5 percent budget cut approved by the Legislature last week, New Mexico State University “is going to be okay,” Chancellor Garrey Carruthers wrote Monday in a letter to the university community.
“As a result of budget efforts already taken, we have identified one-time funds necessary to cover the reduced state appropriations through the end of the current fiscal year,” Carruthers wrote.
The budget cuts NMSU made earlier this year included an extra $1.4 million in anticipation of an additional reduction in state funding. In addition, Carruthers wrote, the university plans to use “carry forward balances and other non-recurring funds such as salary savings from the hiring moratorium and the use of equipment budgets” to make it through the current, 2017 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“I know there has been a lot of anxiety around campus regarding the special session and the budget reductions that accompanied it,” Carruthers wrote. “This is especially understandable in the wake of the other budget cuts we’ve seen at the university.”
The university’s cuts have been deep and widely-felt. Because of a 2 percent state funding reduction already made earlier this year, declining enrollment, and other issues, NMSU eliminated jobs, reduced employee benefits, and cut pay for some top administrators to trim $12.1 million from its budget. Overall, NMSU has cut its budget by about $32 million in the last three fiscal years.
The 5 percent cut approved by the Legislature last week is another $10 million. Gov. Susana Martinez has not yet signed the legislation to make that cut.
But assuming Martinez does sign the bill, using one-time funds to deal with the new deficit in the current fiscal year doesn’t address the long-term situation at NMSU. Carruthers wrote that steps NMSU took earlier this year to reduce costs in the future — including cutting employee benefits — will “begin to generate recurring savings to the university and help us with the 2018 budget and budget years beyond.”
Even that may not be enough. The state’s fiscal outlook remains dim and additional cuts may be on the table when the Legislature meets in January. The university’s administration has already said it plans to seek approval from the Board of Regents for a tuition increase next summer.
“During the coming months we’ll begin to carefully plan what needs to be done to ensure we maintain a balanced budget for 2018, including some options for revenue enhancements,” Carruthers’ letter states.