The midyear higher education budget cuts: What we know

Several of Idaho’s colleges and universities will trim payroll costs to meet Gov. Brad Little’s request for midyear spending cuts.

But Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University are all working out details.

Little is asking colleges and universities to cut spending by 1 percent in the current budget year, which runs through June 30, and 2 percent from next year’s budget. Facing an uncertain revenue picture, Little wants nearly every state agency to reduce spending, but he has spared K-12 from cuts.

Here’s what we know, so far, from the schools’ perspective:

Four-year institutions

University of Idaho: The U of I believes it will save the required $1 million this year through voluntary staff furloughs.

“While volunteering for furlough is no small thing, it is an expedient and immediate way for employees to help the university reduce costs, and there appears to be strong interest from our employees to contribute,” President C. Scott Green wrote in a recent memo to staff, as previously reported by the Lewiston Tribune.

The U of I hasn’t yet come up with a plan to cut $2 million next year, the Tribune reported.

Boise State University: Boise State is still working on its plan with the State Board of Education and Little’s office, and its proposal might not be available until next week, spokesman Greg Hahn said.

As the state’s largest university, Boise State is on the hook for the biggest set of cuts. This year’s cut should be slightly more than $1 million, and next year’s cut should come to about $2.1 million, Hahn said.

Idaho State University: “Our leadership team will be working together in a spirit of collaboration to meet this state of Idaho request,” President Kevin Satterlee said in a recent message to employees. “I know there are many questions about how this will impact our university. We do not have all of the answers right now, but campus will be involved and updated as soon as a plan is identified.”

ISU will need to cut about $850,000 this year, and $1.7 million next year.

Lewis-Clark State College: The Lewiston college is already in belt-tightening mode. In September, as Lewis-Clark faced a possible $1.6 million shortfall, President Cynthia Pemberton spelled out several cost-cutting steps. She urged administrators to leave positions vacant, review vacant jobs before deciding to make a hire, and cut spending.

The college’s shortfall did not live up to September’s forecasts. Enrollment remained stable, stemming that the flow of red ink. As a result, the $1.6 million cut should erase the shortfall and cover Little’s requested cut, spokesman Logan Fowler said.

Two-year colleges

College of Western Idaho: A tight Treasure Valley hiring market — low unemployment rates coupled by high demand for skilled workers — will help the Nampa-based two-year college meet Little’s order this year. By keeping some job positions open, CWI will make this year’s cuts, spokesman Ashley Smith said.

In 2020-21, CWI will make a 10 percent cut in its maintenance and operations budgets and renegotiate leases.

Two-year colleges receive local property tax dollars in addition to state funds, lessening the impact of Little’s order. CWI will need to cut $153,000 from this year’s budget, and $306,000 next year.

College of Southern Idaho: Department heads will hold jobs vacant for at least 90 days, to see whether they can shift work responsibilities elsewhere or get by with part-time staffers, said Jeff Harmon, CSI’s vice president of finance and administration. CSI is also cutting back on travel and capital projects.

CSI will cut its budget by $144,000 this year, and $289,000 next year.

North Idaho College: A hiring freeze and payroll reductions will cover this year’s cut, said Chris Martin, NIC’s vice president for finance and business affairs. In a Nov. 26 memo to Little’s budget-writers, Martin said NIC will roll payroll savings into next year’s budget, while conducting a “full review” of its academic offerings and services. Some “low-performing programs” could be on the chopping block.

NIC needs to cut $127,000 this year and $254,000 next year.

College of Eastern Idaho: The Idaho Falls-based community college will make its cuts by keeping faculty positions open. CEI will need to cut $53,000 this year and about $110,000 next year.

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at krichert@idahoednews.org

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