Budget delays strain department funding

It’s not the budget cuts themselves that are worrying department heads on campus. It’s the uncertainty and the waiting.

With Congress now 92 days late on passing the state budget, facilities all over the state are suffering the consequences. Some are anxious for an end to it all, even if the outcome doesn’t land in their favor.

While it’s clear that delays in Cal Grant checks have frustrated many students, funding for Fresno State’s academic departments has not changed drastically yet. So far, the only rising costs are due to fluctuations in market prices.

Arthur Parham, chair of the Department of Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education, said that his department has not experienced cutbacks, but the sluggish economy is making it harder to obtain the usual materials.

“The cost of hay has doubled,” Parham said. “The cost of many of our inputs has gone up extremely.”

Some departments are able to sustain many of their functions due to revenues from products and services coming out of Fresno State. The university’s farm, for instance, relies almost completely upon its enterprises to stay in operation.

The Department of Theatre Arts, Drama and Dance benefits from ticket sales on plays and other productions. On the academic side, the department has to rely on the university’s general funds just like everyone else. With the $386 million in budget cuts proposed earlier in the year still pending, certain expenses are being eliminated.

“There have been cuts in course offerings because of budget considerations,” said department chair Melissa Gibson, citing fewer sessions in Drama 62 (Theater Today) and in the Creative Movement for Children course.

Part of spending conservatively also requires departments to seek out the most economically feasible supplies.

David Frank, chair of the Chemistry Department, suggested that the most cost-friendly solution sometimes dictates a lack in quality. He said that a bottle of vinegar purchased from the 99 Cent Store is only 2.5 percent vinegar instead of the pricier 5 percent that is ideal in lab experiments.

The business of education can continue as usual because Fresno State has money in its reserves to borrow from. Associate Vice President for Financial Services Clint Moffitt said that Fresno State is fortunate to have been around so long to accrue what it needs in these kinds of emergencies. He added, however, that this alternative is only temporary until a decision is made in Congress.

“We think we know how we’re gonna be handled,” Moffitt said, “but until that budget goes through, it’s really just a guessing game.”

A substantial portion of Fresno State’s operating budget comes from student fees, an influx that just increased by $276 per student this past May. Moffitt said that while the university still needs an additional $163 million from the state to meet its current needs, there’s no telling what kind of limitations it will have to accept in the year ahead.

Contract agreements made in March of last year ensure that faculty salaries will not suffer, but a promised 3 percent compensation increase over the next two years is now in delay along with the state’s budget.

“Everyone on campus could be making much more money doing something else than working on Fresno State,” said chair of the Earth and Environmental Science Department Stephen Lewis, pointing out that it’s concern for students and not financial stability that motivates instructors.

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