YSU braces for state funding cut

Layoffs might loom for Ohio universities.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University would lose $2.9 million under Gov. Bob Taft's proposed 6 percent state budget cut, and the university's top brass isn't yet sure how to handle such a big hit.
"We are beginning a series of discussions, and we obviously will be addressing this," YSU President David Sweet said. "We're going to explore what the options are."
Sweet and other university officials declined to talk about the options and especially cautioned against speculation about employee layoffs, which Sweet said is "extremely premature."
Economic downturn: Sparked by the nation's economic downturn, Taft has ordered most state agencies to cut spending by 6 percent to help make up a projected $600 million revenue shortfall in the state budget by the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2002.
The cuts will amount to $200 million to $240 million, nearly half of which will come from reduced allocations to the state's public universities and colleges, said Jim McCollum, executive director of the Ohio Inter-University Council.
Ohio State University, for instance, will lose $18 million. Ohio University will lose $6.4 million.
McCollum said schools will be forced to freeze hiring, cut academic programs and job positions and reduce travel, supplies, equipment and training costs.
"Conceivably, some of the campuses might be forced to make layoffs," he said.
"Things really are bad, and some hard and harsh decisions are going to have to be made on campuses."
Second time: It's the second time in seven months that Taft has sliced the state budget. A 1 percent cut in April amounted to a loss of about $500,000 for YSU.
Nearly half of YSU's $100 million annual general fund budget comes from state subsidies; the other half is generated by student tuition and fees.
The budget picture could get worse. If the state and national economies do not recover soon, the state revenue deficit could grow, forcing even more cuts.
Also looming is an estimated $2.5 billion needed in the next two years under the Ohio Supreme Court's most recent ruling to fix funding for primary and secondary education.
"They've put the burden on higher education, and there's no reason to believe they won't put more burden on higher education," Sweet said. "Universities are going to be hurt, no question about it."
Rainy-day fund: Sweet urged Taft and the General Assembly to tap into the state's $850 million rainy-day fund to ease the budget strain.
"If we don't have rain going on as we speak in the context of our budget, I don't know when we will ever have," he said.