Geneseo hit with more cuts in New York's latest budget

After five months of delay, lawmakers in Albany passed the New York State budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year on Aug. 4; the SUNY system suffered budget cuts for the fourth year in a row.

This year's state budget cuts nearly $3.4 million from Geneseo's current budget, bringing the total amount of state budget cuts to $8.2 million since the 2007-2008 school year.

"We really couldn't afford to take more of a cut," said Carol Long, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

According to James Milroy, assistant vice president for budget and government relations officer, the college will have to continue to operate on its already tight budget. It has had to cut some personnel, which as a group make up around 70 percent of the college's costs.

The college has also been holding many positions open and has declined tenure jobs to new professors. Positions for adjunct professors are either being held vacant or being used to replace positions typically occupied by tenure-track professors.

According to both Long and Milroy, the college cut expenses further through the elimination of temporary service positions that were previously held and by cutting the budgeted allowance for "other than personal services," which include day-to-day needs such as paper and markers.

"When you've been handed cuts for four years in a row, there's nothing new - we're used to cutting back," said Milroy.

A significant portion of the cuts has been offset by recent tuition increases that have closed the gap by nearly $3.5 million since they went into effect.

The New York State legislature passed its budget at one of the latest dates in the state's history and came close to setting the record for the latest budget ever. Because the SUNY budget must go through an allocation process in Albany, these delays created further obstacles for acquiring and moving school funding.

Historically, New York State has had difficulty recovering from economic recessions, creating a very tight budget situation in Albany. "A big percentage of New York's income tax is generated between Wall Street and the East River, so when financial institutions are hit, New York State is slow to recover," Milroy said.

Because the SUNY system operates as an executive department of New York, the governor can cut SUNY's budget without approval from the state legislature. According to Milroy, this has made SUNY a tempting target for cuts, especially in the middle of the year.

Milroy added that higher education institutions do not have strong political clout in Albany, where public education at the K-12 level has much more interest. He said that legislators are quick to support elementary and secondary education primarily because more voters are invested in the public school system than in SUNY.

Still, SUNY does receive some support at the federal level through grants and appropriations such as the provision for a new spectrometer provided by Rep. Chris Lee. Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand recently requested an earmark for additional funding.

According to Long, such measures are part of ensuring Geneseo's vitality even as it faces a tight budget and the potential for more cuts. "The biggest challenge for Geneseo is to try to make us a stronger institution 10 years down the road - to balance the current sense of need with the long-term health of the institution," she said.

This challenge has been the focal point of President Christopher Dahl's Six Big Ideas initiative of last year, which attempts to generate revenue and reduce costs for the college in the long-term in ways that also enhance its mission as a public liberal arts college.