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FAU Budget Cuts Less Than Forecasted

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FAU Budget Cuts Less Than Forecasted

By Scott Travis

Florida Atlantic University will suffer budget cuts this year, but not quite as bad as originally feared.

The Legislature's budget, expected to be approved later this week, includes about $246 million for FAU, down from $256 million a year ago, said Ken Jessell, FAU's vice president for finance.

But after taking out money that is already earmarked for specific uses, such as increases in health premiums, FAU is actually suffering a cut of about $16.7 million, Jessell said. FAU had estimated a cut of $17.4 million. But officials also feared a proposal from the House of Representatives that would have sliced FAU's budget by $28.5 million.

"The House plan would have been catastrophic in many ways," Jessell said. "We're very, very thankful for where we ended up."

How this extra $736,000 will be used remains to be seen. Jessell said he doesn't know yet whether it will help FAU avoid layoffs. FAU hasn't released detailed plans of proposed cuts, but officials have warned of cuts to jobs, programs, courses and services.

"We'll have to see how this money can be best used to meet our key strategic priorities, which is educating students," Jessell said.

FAU's budget calculations assume that the university raises tuition by 13 percent. A new state law allows FAU to charge up to 15 percent higher than last year, which would include an 8 percent across-the-board increase. FAU would get an extra $256,000 it charged the maximum tuition allowed, officials said.

State officials say universities as a whole fared better than many in this year's budget.

The State University System is taking a 10.5 percent, or $211 million hit in general revenue. But with the help of federal stimulus dollars and tuition increases, the budget for the system will increase by $20 million this year, or 1 percent, according to the Board of Governors, the governing board for public universities.

Florida had faced a $6 billion budget shortfall for the 2010 budget. Legislators closed about half the gap with federal stimulus money.

"Under the circumstance of the revenue stream we had, I think we did fairly well," said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who led the Senate's Higher Education Appropriations Committee. "It's unfortunate we couldn't do more."

Source:  Sun Sentinel
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