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UNC leaders work to explain budget woes to General Assembly

As an inexperienced legislature tackles state budget cuts, UNC officials say it will be even more important to explain how the University’s budget works.

If they know the mechanisms, they will know the effect cuts would have, said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney.

After a sweeping November election, Carney said about 40 of the state legislators are new and not fully informed about the organization of the University’s budget.

“They have a lot to learn,” he said.

Carney said some legislators have told him they think there is extra money within the University that could be used to plug the holes created by the upcoming budget cut, which is projected to range from 5 to 15 percent as the state addresses a shortfall of at least $2.4 billion.

The University has absorbed cuts amounting to 20 percent during the past three years.

“We have a big budget, but it’s all committed,” he said.

Carney said overhead costs, such as supplying labs and paying graduate students, are not taken into account by legislators when discussing the University’s budget.

University officials said they have had to inform some legislators about the extent of external sources of revenue.

Dick Mann, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said there is not enough outside revenue to offset cuts. He said most private money is allocated towards scholarships and faculty salaries, while most grants are put towards research.

Conversations between the University and legislators have had to distinguish the budgets of universities against the other levels of education overseen by the state.

“Our budget is a little more complex than the public schools and community college budgets,” said Erin Schuettpelz, director of state relations and communication.

Schuettpelz said working with these different levels of education is a balancing act for the legislature.

While the University officials have worked to inform legislators about how the budget works, they have also been answering questions from the legislators.

“They want to learn about the University, and there’s the opportunity for education,” Schuettpelz said.

She said legislators have asked questions about the source of funds for the University, how tuition revenues are used on-campus and how financial aid is structured.

Despite the improving state economy and understanding of the University’s inner workings, UNC officials said they do not expect the discussions to reduce the severity of the cut.

Carney said the University has to brace for the possibility of a 15 percent cut, which would force changes that would reach into the classroom.

“We’re running out of options in the non-instructional side,” he said, adding that finance and administration has already seen a 35 percent cut.

He said larger classes and a reduction of class offerings is an option that he does not want to implement.

Carney said he will spend the next six weeks discussing the impact of heavier cuts with vice chancellors and deans across the University.

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“I don’t have a clear solution in my head at the moment,” he said.

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