Stimulus eases budget woes

By Trent Lowe, Staff Writer

The recently signed federal stimulus bill, endorsed strongly by President Barack Obama, will help ease the $46 million budget cut the U will experience beginning next year.

The U, which faced a budget cutback of more than 17 percent, will receive funds from the federal stimulus that will bring the cut down to 9 percent, according to financial aides to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

“This package will let us put stimulus money back into higher education and create a softer landing,” said Ric Cantrell, the chief deputy of the Utah Senate.

The U will receive $241.8 million from the stimulus and state funds, compared to the $264.8 million that had initially been budgeted, according to the governor’s office.

The stimulus package will begin with the 2009-2010 academic year and will only extend one additional year, after which the cutback will return to the “normal percentage,” a percentage that Cantrell said is impossible to forecast.

“It only lasts two years, then it’s back to normal,” Cantrell said, “What percentage is normal? No one knows.”

The U administration is concerned about how the university will make up for the lost funds once the stimulus has ended.

“The cut will still be there, but the stimulus won’t,” said Paul Brinkman, associate vice president of budget and planning at the U. “It’ll be a huge impact for the university.”

All public colleges and universities in Utah are set to experience the same 9 percent cutback from the state, but the U, being the largest public university in the state, will feel it the most.

“The budget’s going to get cut by about $46 million, and the stimulus was near $22 million,”

Brinkman said. “Were it not for the stimulus, things would be a lot worse.”

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, who was responsible for the oversight of fund allocation within the Legislature, was unavailable for comment.

“Some legislators are optimistic, some are pessimistic,” said Steve Allred, the deputy director for the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst. “The opinion on the stimulus is pretty broad.”

Cantrell drew from history to prove his point. “Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,'” he said. “That’s certainly true with budget matters.”

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