Due to the failure of ballot Measure 30 Feb. 3, Oregon universities are trying to figure out where to make approximately $7.5 million in cuts for this and next fiscal year.
Fortunately, Portland State administrators knew about the ballot measure when they were planning this year’s budget and took a pessimistic perspective: they counted the measure’s failing and budgeted accordingly.
Cathy Dyck, associate vice president for finance and planning, said that means “no cuts this year.” She added that she and other administrators are now assembling a budget for next year and are trying to figure out what to do. They are hoping not to raise tuition.
But the outlook might not be as bad as it originally looked. Vice President for Finance and Administration Jay Kenton explained that PSU’s share of the cuts originally ran about $1.75 million, about 22 percent of the total cuts based on enrollment proportion.
“That’s the number we planned around,” he said.
Those numbers, however, were established by the previous State Board of Higher Education. A new board has since taken office and, following their first official meeting last Friday, has proposed that the Oregon University System Chancellor’s office absorb 50 percent of the cuts.
That means PSU’s new share is only $834,000, according to Kenton.
The process, Dyck added, “is sitting down and looking at the full budget picture, both expenses and revenue.”
As far as the coming cuts, this year looks solid. “I don’t think it’s going to be for quite some time. It won’t be this fiscal year,” she said.
Kenton called it “a day of reckoning.” If certain situations like enrollment don’t improve, the university will have to begin making cuts in certain areas.
“We’re hoping,” he said, “we won’t ever have to cross that bridge.”
One issue they are still dealing with, she said, is the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The university’s cost for PERS is still “up in the air,” Dyck said.
Both Kenton and Dyck, however, stated that there are no plans for the university to cap enrollment.
“We’re really trying to do our best to thoroughly look through every option to see what has to happen. We don’t want to raise tuition,” Dyck said, “but you never know until you actually get down to working the numbers.”
The university should learn the actual number of their cuts in May, once the Chancellor’s office has presented its total cuts to the board.
Administrators are hoping the Chancellor’s office can absorb 50 percent of the cuts, as promised, but Dyck pointed out that those cuts may still trickle down to the campuses if they are asked to pick up the slack where the Chancellor’s office has made cuts.
“We don’t know what will get cut and how it will pass to the university,” she said. At this point, she added, they’re going to “play it by ear.”