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The Daily Tar Heel

State Works to Ease System Budget Cuts

Last month, Gov. Mike Easley's office informed UNC-system officials state revenue was not reaching expected levels due to the economic downturn resulting from the terrorist attacks. Officials asked many state agencies to prepare for funding cuts -- as high as 4 percent for the UNC system.

But system officials and the state budget director recently agreed on a plan with a 2.7 percent decrease in state funding for public higher education programs.

State-supported universities and community colleges were asked to come up with their own plans for decreasing their intake of state funds.

Fred Hartman, Easley's press secretary, said he thinks the plan is a step in the right direction. "Education is a top priority, and we don't want to do anything negative to our universities," he said.

Hartman said the governor ordered budget cuts for many state agencies but did not want to set a target percentage for education. Instead, Easley allowed UNC-system officials to determine a fair cut. "We are trying to be good stewards of the people's money, serving the people as best we can," he said.

Hartman said the state's economic situation appears to be improving, but it is necessary to prepare for the worst.

Jeff Davies, UNC-system vice president for finance, said the percentage is lower because the governor decided to protect education, not because the economic picture had improved substantially.

Davies also insisted the spending decrease will not impair classroom activity at UNC-system universities. "With this 2.7 percent cut and the plans we will be making with the chancellors, we should be able to protect instruction," he said.

In the meantime, Davies said the numbers will continue to be re-examined depending on whether the economy improves.

"This is the best information we have now," he said. "The state's economy will continue to be a factor, and we will re-examine the economic projection after the first of the year."

The 2.7 percent cut will reduce the University's budget by about $10 million.

UNC-Chapel Hill Provost Robert Shelton said the smaller cut also is better than expected because it is non-recurring, offering flexibility to deans and other decision makers in making temporary cuts.

Shelton said UNC-CH students might feel some effects of the cuts, but, if so, they will be small. Cuts mostly will affect the hiring of new staff, travel expenses for employees and other expenses not directly related to teaching.

"Students won't feel the effects of the cut too badly, but you'll sadly still have to deal with construction delays."

State & National Editor Alex Kaplun contributed to this story.
The State & National Editor can be reached at

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