Trustees face grim budget

A possible $17.5 million could be cut from the university’s budget, President James Ammons announced Thursday at the Board of Trustees meeting.

Florida A&M University Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hardee made a presentation to the trustees Wednesday to breakdown future cuts and how it will effect the university.    
She said reducing salaries is an option and would save the school $4.5 million; the university could go to a four-day week schedule for six months or a year.        

Ammons said budget cuts for Florida A&M University could result in lay offs, a hiring freeze and a travel freeze. Hardee said $5.3 million could be saved by not hiring people in the 122 vacant spots.

In an effort to cope with budget cuts, Ammons announced that he supported Governor Charlie Crist’s proposed differential tuition increase. FAMU could charge higher fees, which can be different than the fees the state charge.

“I think all of us in the state of Florida, and really in the country, are talking about budgets,” Ammons said.

The state legislative session will begin March 3.  Once they finish, their decision will go into effect on July 1. Ammons said every division of the university would feel the impact of the reductions.  He said the cuts are so large there is no way to focus on just one area.           

“The students and their welfare  will be my number one concern,” Ammons said.             

Ammons said he would only consider layoffs of faculty and staff as a last resort.  FAMU may also have a scaled down version of summer school. Sessions C and B are secured, but session A is still being discussed.        

“We are doing as much work as we can proactively, so we will know what we need to do instead of waiting for them to tell us,” said FAMU trustee Robert Dent.

Dent also said the president and leadership team will come up with a plan for budget cuts, and recommend them to the BOT for approval.     

“We’ll make a decision after the legislation concludes.  We won’t know exactly what the decisions are until then,” Dent said.   

The trustees also gave reports on the ongoing major construction projects.  Two out of the eight projects are 100% complete.  Those projects are FAMU DRS and the University Commons—Phase I.     

The Crestview Health Care Center is waiting for construction funding and renovations for Jones Hall and Tucker Hall is scheduled to begin in September 2009 and end November 2010.  The Facilities Planning Committee wants to have the dates for Jones and Tucker Hall to be moved up.       

“We are asking that the start date be moved up so they will be completed in August,” said FAMU trustee Spurgeon McWilliams.    

McWilliams said it wouldn’ make much sense to have them completed in November when school starts in August.       

McWilliams said the buildings are being completely renovated and they have received bids from three construction companies. 

The company they choose will be announced at the next board meeting, which will be held April 9.