UNM hammering out plan to handle state cuts

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Months after getting hit with one state budget cut, the University of New Mexico is working on a plan to handle yet another one following a 5-percent budget hit recently handed down by state lawmakers.

“It’s $20 million for the current year that we’re taking out of our existing budget,” said outgoing UNM president Bob Frank.

That cut was approved at a special session as part of a fix to the state’s massive budget shortfall.

Under the current plan to address that issue, UNM is implementing a hiring freeze for non-critical positions and pulling in money from reserves. That halt on hiring could have an effect on students.

“You have to look and see when you go in these types of environments and you have cuts year after year it begins to affect the quality of the education for the students,” Frank said.

A tuition hike seems like a difficult prospect, especially for students already feeling squeezed.

“I don’t have money for that,” said UNM junior David Schwartz.

“We didn’t do anything to do this,” said UNM junior Marissa Lott. “We didn’t ask for this.”

“It’s the type of environment we’d like to see a tuition increase but I’m not optimistic one would happen,” said Frank.

The state cut could hit Lobo athletics especially hard. Although its share of the cut is only around $140,000, it comes with the department facing other financial pressures. Alcohol sales at games have provided a $40,000 boost through three home contests but despite a winning 2015 season, fans haven’t showed up in the numbers UNM was expecting for the 2016 season.

“Single game sales, we’re down about $100,000 from where we were last year at this time,” said UNM athletic director Paul Krebs.

Basketball season ticket sales are also down so far. But Krebs also pointed out that relative to the Mountain West, fan support and other revenues are above average.

“I just don’t think the model can sustain itself,” said Krebs. “It’s unrealistic for us to expect to generate more and more revenues from the fan base in this community based on the economy.”

That has brought the difficult thought of cutting some sports into the conversation.

“I guess the last option would be cutting sports right? In terms of expenses…” said UNM regent Ryan Berryman. “I don’t think anyone has the appetite to do that.”

“Any discussion about eliminating sports is very painful,” said Krebs. “I prefer not to talk about it.”

The budget situation could get harder for UNM next year with the possibility of more cuts next year when lawmakers meet in January as the state has a projected shortfall for FY 18.

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