A Message from the President
In my most recent campus budget update on January 16, I shared information about significant developments that are negatively affecting the state budget. Since then, the Louisiana Revenue Estimating Conference met and confirmed significant additional oil-price driven shortfalls in expected state revenues for the remainder of the current fiscal year and next fiscal year. The projected additional shortfall for the remainder of this year is $103 million, while the projected shortfall for next fiscal year has increased to $1.6 billion. These developments are indeed very troubling, and I, along with many others, am working daily to identify and support solutions. At the same time, I hope you will keep the following considerations in mind.
First, Governor Jindal's administration recently announced plans to address the additional $103 million budget shortfall for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and I am relieved to report that the plans DO NOT appear to include reductions for higher education.
Second, while the overall budget projections for next fiscal year, including potential reductions for higher education, are truly sobering, it is important to remember that it is still very early in the state budgeting process. Clearly, the upcoming legislative session will see much deliberation and debate about the State's fiscal challenges as well as potential solutions.
Third, while I am extremely concerned about the potential negative impacts to higher education in the upcoming fiscal year, I am also very encouraged by the adamant determination exhibited by many legislators and others to find solutions that will protect higher ed funding.
Please know that I am working diligently with our alumni, community leaders and UL System leadership, as well as members of our legislative delegation, to help identify and pursue viable solutions to these budget challenges.
Given the magnitude of projected state budget shortfalls and the political hype surrounding the upcoming election cycle, the weeks leading up to and including the next legislative session likely will see many tumultuous developments accompanied by disconcerting media reports - the likes of which we are already seeing on an almost daily basis.
As you have always done, and despite these significant distractions, I ask that you continue to focus on the task at hand - serving the best interests of our students. While we are all frustrated with the State's ongoing financial challenges and need to be informed about the problem, involved in the debate, and supportive of solutions, we also have to remember that our students did not create the state's budget problems. In fact, we need to be mindful that they are currently paying considerably more for their education than was the case a few short years ago. They are being impacted as well.
Finally, I know all of you are anxious to learn the status of the previously proposed faculty/staff raise plans. Unfortunately, given current fiscal uncertainties, I believe we must defer action until the state budget picture becomes clearer. While I realize this is disappointing for everyone, circumstances dictate that we proceed cautiously and exercise fiscal prudence.
As always, I will keep the campus apprised of further developments as soon as new credible information is available.
John L. Crain