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March 8, 2012 Volume 33, No. 23

Mizzou budget outlook slightly improved, but difficult decisions still to come

Staff Advisory Council

Budget deficit may decrease to $2.2 million

Tim Rooney, MU budget director, was cautiously optimistic about the university’s finances during a presentation March 8 to the Staff Advisory Council.

Rooney’s sentiment was based on two recent occurrences.

First, a day earlier the House Budget Committee passed Gov. Jay Nixon’s $23 billion state budget for fiscal 2013. 

Initially, Nixon had proposed a 12.5 percent cut to state higher education funds to balance the budget. 

But the governor amended his agenda due to a $40 million settlement involving the nation’s five largest mortgage banks. The amendment would lower state cuts to public universities and colleges to 7.8 percent for fiscal 2013. 

Second, in recent weeks key lawmakers have pushed to reduce the cuts to less than 7.8 percent.

Rooney began his presentation by pointing out that state appropriations have dwindled dramatically throughout the decades. 

In fiscal 1990, state funding paid for 70 percent of MU’s general operating budget, and tuition revenue accounted for 27 percent. But by fiscal 2012, the state funded only 33 percent of the general operating budget, while tuition paid for 60 percent of the cost. Grants, private donations and other funds paid for the rest of the budget. 

Faculty and staff have had to do more with less for years, Rooney said. Since 2001, student enrollment has increased 45 percent, while state funding has dropped 14 percent. 

Rooney, however, was pleased by Nixon’s budget amendment proposal and efforts by lawmakers to further diminish education cuts. 

He said Mizzou has $6 million in reserves to tackle a $15.7 million deficit. Spending cuts may bring the deficit down to a projected $2.2 million.

“It’s not the greatest scenario, but it’s an improvement from where we were a month or so ago,” Rooney said. 

“But a lot of difficult decisions still have to be made.”

— Trevor Eischen