Feb 122004
 
Authors: Chris Kampfe

As the Colorado General Assembly begins planning for the 2005

fiscal-year budget, CSU officials are grabbing for their rain

jackets to prepare for what some in Denver are calling “The Perfect

Fiscal Storm.”

The “Storm” is a term coined by state Treasurer Mike Coffman. He

describes it as the combination of Amendment 23, the Gallagher

Amendment and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and the three

laws’ effects on the state budget.

These laws regarding K-12 education and taxes have put officials

in higher education in a position of begging legislators to

understand the bill’s repercussions.

The combination of the three laws accounts for nearly 85 percent

of the statewide General Fund. Of the remaining 15 percent, higher

education accounted for 10.6 percent in the last fiscal year,

leaving an additional 5 percent for prisons and other miscellaneous

fees. Fifteen years ago higher education received 20.4 percent of

the General Fund.

Although any assessment on the state’s economy is purely

speculation at this point, university officials are aware that

another cut in higher education funding might lie ahead.

“Last year we received a $34.2 million general fund reduction.

What we saw last year put things in perspective,” said Gerard

Bomotti, vice president for Administrative Services. Bomotti also

said that last year’s budget shortfalls have helped CSU prepare for

potential shortcomings this year.

Although last year’s shortfall called for a base budget

reduction in many campus facilities, not all the budget cuts were

implemented. This is due to what Bomotti calls “one-time dollars”

or a savings fund that provided the university extra time.

Tom Milligan, spokesperson for CSU, believes the presence of

“one-time dollars” can be positive.

“What this represents is that we are conservative with our

money,” Milligan said.

One effect of the budget cuts has been an increasing number of

students with a decreasing number of university faculty.

This has resulted in a continually rising student to faculty

ratio. Keith Ickes, associate vice president for Administrative

Services and director of the Office of Budget and Institutional

Analysis, also feels that CSU’s handling of the rising ratio is

positive.

“Right now we’re about 17 or 18 students per teacher. That’s not

bad, but it’s not going in the right direction,” Ickes said.

Despite the substandard student to teacher ratio, Ickes said CSU

is competitive with similar universities and colleges when

comparing graduation rates.

Along with state funding, CSU receives a significant portion of

its revenue from tuition. In times of state budget crises, a

shortfall might be alleviated by a tuition increase.

Last year CSU increased tuition to cover costs. The university,

however, views the tuition increase as a partial solution.

“We can’t even raise our tuition 5 percent, which would only be

a few hundred dollars per student,” Ickes said. “Tuition increases

last year were less than one-half the national average.”

This is partially because Gov. Bill Owens has held out for low

tuition increases,

Bomotti said.

“We are afraid the state will have to make significant

reductions before they allow us to raise tuition,” Bomotti

said.

Because of the restrictions put on the budget of higher

education due to the “fiscal storm,” CSU officials work closely

with legislators to help solve the problem. Also, CSU will hold

public forums in April and May for community discussion and input

on the topic.

“It’s still premature to begin any action yet,” Milligan said.

“We’re hopeful that through a variety of discussion, we’re not

going to have to make any cuts.”

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