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UNM banks on salary bill for budget

University administrators are crafting next year’s budget with the hope that Gov. Gary Johnson will approve faculty and staff salary increases.

Julie Weaks, interim vice president for Business and Finance, said the group has a committee looking at different funding possibilities, including a variety of possible tuition increases, with the expectation that Johnson will sign the bill.

“We’re facing a tight deadline because our billion-dollar budget has to be done after legislators sign wrap up the session, which is taking us into April, and must be turned to the Commission on Higher Education by May 1,” she said.

The group is juggling the pieces of House Bill 2, the main state funding bill, that did pass. The bill included a tuition formula fix, which brings the state’s tuition formula in line with what it actually costs to educate a UNM student. However, the bill did not include a formula fix that adds student support staff salaries into the state’s formula when considering staff increases.

UNM also took a hit when the state opted not to fund its utility bills, which increased dramatically when gas prices rose nationwide.

Senate Bill 2 also included a 5 percent tuition credit for undergraduate and law students and a 10 percent credit for medical students. The credit is the amount the Legislature expects UNM to increase tuition, so it automatically deducts that amount from the University’s budget.

Weaks said administrators are now trying to figure out how to meet the University’s basic needs.

“We’re really limited in what we can do,” she said. “The only way to generate the lost revenue is to cut several significant budget items, cut a certain percentage off the entire budget or raise tuition.”

But UNM President Bill Gordon said tuition increases are quickly becoming less of a viable option.

“We’ve already come close to exhausting the elasticity we have with out-of-state tuition,” he said. “Our tuition is 99 percent of that of neighboring states for out-of-state students, which makes us less of an obvious choice we once were. After last year’s 15 percent increase, we lost 100 out-of-state freshman incoming students. We can’t continue to do that.”

Gordon said the University is considering staggering out-of-state and in-state tuition, increasing in-state tuition by a higher rate.

While nothing is certain in the annual Legislative roll of the dice the University throws for its budget, Weaks said that if Johnson does not pass the faculty and salary compensation bill, UNM could not offer pay increases.

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“We just can’t afford to make up that much of a difference,” she said. “The good news is that the increases are recommended at such a high rate. The bad news is that so many other things were left out of House Bill 2 that we’re going to have to make some hard decisions this month.”

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