‘Cyclical’ budget situation calls for careful progression

Northern Arizona University President John Haeger has appeared before the Arizona Legislature each of the last three weeks to talk about NAU priorities and initiatives, vision and goals, the current state budget situation and the university’s ’09 budget request.

Haeger told members that the university recognizes the seriousness of Arizona’s FY08 budget situation and assured them of NAU’s commitment to prudent and responsible fiscal controls.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Legislature have proposed different solutions for an expected deficit in this year’s state budget, which runs through June 30. The governor’s recommendation keeps NAU’s current budget intact while the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees have recommended a $16 million cut to NAU’s budget.

Napolitano and the Legislature also released their FY09 budget requests last week. Her proposal calls for an increase in all university budgets, including an additional $8 million for NAU. The legislative budget recommends funding student enrollment growth only.

Both proposals are currently under discussion, and public hearings are being held this week.

Back in Flagstaff, Haeger reminded staff and faculty that budget downturns are cyclical, and NAU has weathered similar dilemmas in the past. “The current conditions are part of normal market fluctuations,” he said. “As significant as this budget problem is, I’m confident the state’s economy will improve—as it has in the past.”

In the meantime, the university will continue moving forward with projects that already are under way. Construction projects—such as the conference center, the Liberal Arts building remodel and the new residence hall—cannot be abandoned, he said.

“We need to be cautious with our spending without bringing the university to a halt, and we aren’t going to let buildings fall down around us,” Haeger said. He also pointed out that capital improvement funds are restricted to specific projects and cannot be moved to the general fund.