Legislature wrestles with budget deficit; Haeger proposes fiscal guidelines

The Arizona Legislature is nearing its recommendation for addressing the state’s $1 billion budget shortfall. President John Haeger notes that the budget process is far from over, but in the meantime has instituted some immediate budget reduction guiding principles.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a plan that, among other things, would trim about $25 million from the “university system—all campuses.” The effect on NAU would be about a $3 million to $4 million cut from the current FY08 budget.

The House Appropriations is scheduled to meet today to address the same proposal. The measure would then go to the full Legislature.

At NAU, Haeger introduced the budget reduction guiding principles at a meeting of the President’s Cabinet. The principles ask all university vice presidents to pore over their FY08 budgets with a list of guidelines in mind.

The list includes a request to vice presidents to hold back .5 percent of their state budgets—beyond the normal .5 percent of their salary budget—until the budget reduction situation is resolved. The VPs will determine which specific units and departments would be affected.

The guidelines also advise that year-end balances in local budgets will be carefully scrutinized so that expenses are not transferred to state budgets.

Haeger emphasized that the university will remain committed to improving faculty and staff salaries within available resources, and some new initiatives, such as the health professions plans, will move forward.

He also addressed a legislative proposal that would freeze hiring within all state departments.

“The hiring freeze is still only a proposal, but the university is committed to hiring additional faculty and staff to handle the enrollment growth of the last two years and its expected future growth,” Haeger said. He also said that other positions will be scrutinized to ensure they are critical to the university mission.

The list of budget reduction guidelines is online.

How the budget proposals will affect the universities is still up in the air, but the ramifications could carry over into the FY09 budget.