Budget cuts could affect tuition

Attempts to fill state's $1.3 billion deficit cost Ball State millions of dollars.

Gov. Frank O'Bannon's latest budgets cuts leave Ball State about $26 million short in funding and increases the likelihood that fall tuition could be raised.

The cuts, which O'Bannon announced Thursday, are expected to be the last in a series of budget freezes and transfers designed to shore up an estimated $1.3 billion deficit.

"Some (legislators) allowed politics to displace responsibility during the legislative session that ended earlier this month," O'Bannon said in a statement. "And now we see the results."

Neither O'Bannon nor his press secretary were available for comment.

O'Bannon had already cut $3.8 million, or half of the budget, from the building repair and rehabilitation fund and a promised $3.1 million for technology purchases.

Afterwards, he warned more be on the way.

He finished the job Thursday, cutting the other half of the building repair fund.

He also effectively eliminated next year's funding for technology purchases by giving universities the option to use it instead for operating costs.

President Blaine Brownell, however, considers it a cut in technology regardless.

"That had no significance for me," Brownell said.

O'Bannon's axe also took off .5 percent, or about $600,000, from the university's operating budget for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

"When we receive a cut, even though a small percentage, it is very serious," Brownell said.

According to Brownell, about two-thirds of the university's budget comes from the state. The next largest source, and the most likely target to supplement lost state funding, is tuition.

"If you're driving the train with the smaller engine, you need to fill the engine with more fuel," said Tom Morrison, the assistant to the associate vice president of governmental relations. "It ends up being a tax on our students."

With no more cuts expected, Brownell said, the university can start fleshing out the details for next year's tuition and university budget, though Brownell said the cuts gives the university a handicap that will be hard to recover from.

The cuts, along with a delay in June of the state's monthly $10.4 million payment, have already had an effect on Ball State.

At its Friday meeting, the Board of Trustees approved an increase in summer tuition fees of 10 percent, partly because of the cuts.

After last week's cuts, H. O'Neal Smitherman, the vice president of Information Technology and executive assistant to the president, said computers labs created with the idea that this year's money would be available to repair and upgrade them may not receive the upgrades.

He said, a number of labs may not receive the upgrades they need, though he would not specify which ones.

"They have begun to outlive their usefulness," Smitherman said. "It affects our planning in all sorts of direction."

The lack of funding could also deter the creation of 50 new electronic classrooms.

Of the $26 million total cuts, about $6 million came from Thursday.

Unlike last week, O'Bannon does not need approval from the state's Board of Finance to commence Thursday's cuts, Morrison said.

Because the General Assembly concluded without a bill to address the deficit, O'Bannon has blamed legislators, particularly Republicans, for the wave of education cuts.

Rep. Bruce Munson, R-Muncie, said both chambers of the Legislature took a flawed approach to the deficit dilemma. He also said O'Bannon has yet to tap into funding currently resting in other budgets.

According to Jeff Heinzmann, the legal counselor for the state auditor's office, O'Bannon has already transferred at least $94.25 million from various budgets, but more can be done, Heinzmann said.

"We don't think he's exhausted the outside funds by any stretch," he said.


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