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PSU could face $5.6 million in cuts

If Oregon voters don’t pass a three-year income-tax increase in January, PSU could face another $5.6 million in budget cuts, meaning higher tuition costs for students, said Jay Kenton, vice president of finance and administration.

“We have been given options that we can submit cut plans or revenue plans or a combination of both,” Kenton said. “Our plan is to recover half of that [deficit] in a tuition surcharge and the other half in budget cuts.”

The plan, submitted Monday to the Oregon University System board, is still in an early planning stage and won’t be finalized until the State Board of Higher Education meets in Ashland on Oct. 18.

The proposed surcharge would add $120 to tuition costs for both winter and spring terms, about a 15 percent increase.

“That would mean that about 500 students wouldn’t be attending,” said Kristen Wallace, ASPSU president.

To lessen the burden somewhat, 10 percent of the surcharge will go into a fund earmarked for financial aid.

“Everybody’s taking a hit, it’s not just us. The state’s budget is a $12 billion budget and the revenue loss is about $1.6 billion, 9.2 percent,” Kenton said. “We are getting less than our proportionate share of the budget cuts.”

Regardless, PSU has Oregon’s largest student body and that makes budget cuts all the more difficult.

“With the demands being placed on us for 24,000 students and research and other things, we can’t absorb all the cuts,” Kenton said.

The income-tax surcharge will come up in January, between terms. If the surcharge passes, the university will need to reimburse students for the then-unnecessary tuition surcharge. Since the vote is situated between terms, the university has to take action around the vote.

The budget cuts are being implemented on short notice.

“It’s really sad how they had to do this,” Wallace said. “They only had a week to figure out how they were going to cut funding.”

Bookkeeping is done on a two-year basis. Right now the state is in the middle of a two-year cycle, so cuts are being applied retroactively.

“The other thing that we’re up against is that many of our faculty already have contracts for the year, and those contracts don’t have provisions for being laid-off,” said Kenton.

In May, PSU was forced to lay off a number of workers and implement a hiring freeze to make up for budget cuts that were activated at that time.

“The ice is getting thicker,” said Richard Koontz, PSU controls technician and chief steward, Local 89. “After the last layoffs, we were kept in the dark. We didn’t know anything about a plan, and we were stunned, and we were asked to be kept in the loop.”

Last time the layoffs were mostly in grounds and maintenance positions. This, along with the ongoing hiring freeze, has left facilities with a near skeleton crew.

“Back in the summer, I talked to Jay Kenton and he said they just didn’t see how they could take much more out of our budget,” Koontz said.

Kenton said, “I’m very concerned about all the people here. We will try to work with our labor unions to give them as much notice as we possibly can. There is so much uncertainty. I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of the economy yet. There may be more cuts than we’ve talked about.

“Next biennia, the forecasts are even worse. I have no idea what to plan for.”