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Portland State budget still undecided

In times of recession it should come as no surprise to hear Portland State University is once again facing budget cuts. Governor Kitzhaber and the state Legislature have still been unable to finalize any sort of budget for state schools, leaving vice president of finance, Jay Kenton and other university officials doubtful about the fate of this year’s budget.

“Typically we have the budget started in December or January,” Kenton said. “Usually it is done by May or June. This year we are still working on the budget and we aren’t expected to get it done till late September or October.”

The Governor and state Legislature are locked in a battle over how to fill in the deficit Oregon faces.

Last year Portland State’s budget was $140 million dollars. Half that was state funds and the other half came from student tuition and fees. This year it’s expected the state will allocate 5 to 6 million dollars less due to recent budget woes.

PSU receives 1.3 percent of the total state’s spending budget.

With the expected state shortfall of $317 million this year, and another $85 million that may be cut, Portland State is at risk to lose even more state funding.

One boost to the budget is the expected rise in admissions. While previous guesses stated a 6.6 percent growth factor, current enrollment figures show a 7 percent rise.

This, however, is not enough to make up the expected loss from the state.

There have been several ideas on how to deal with the impending budget crisis. President Bernstine has put together a future finance committee to find different ways to raise money.

Other schools have been using similar tactics.

“Many colleges and universities around the state have been trying to get more autonomy in determining how they run business. On our end, we are trying to diversify where we get funds from, as well as reduce costs,” Kenton said.

There is a lot that goes into making the budget. Using estimates from last year is a large part of the decision process. Salaries, student wages and payroll expenses such as healthcare make up 80 percent of the spending at school.

“Healthcare and utility costs have all grown more than the inflation rate, that has been one big challenge,” Kenton said.

Earlier this year, universities were asked to make budget reductions to help absorb the hit the state budget is about to take.

“Last spring we reduced the budget by $5 million dollars. We had a 5 percent reduction in administrative units, and a 1 percent reduction in academic units. It’s tough, but we had to make the decision based on our priorities as a school and try to minimize the impact,” Kenton said.

Lastly, if the budget is finished as late as October, the school will find itself with a whole new dilemma as the school and its departments will have less freedom in deciding where and how to appropriate funds.

“I still feel optimistic about Portland State’s future as an institution,” Kenton said. “We’ve had a great growth in enrollment, and people really want to come here. It’s going to be a great school year.”