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Texas A&M System Board of Regents approves budget without proposed cuts - The Eagle: News

Texas A&M System Board of Regents approves budget without proposed cuts

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:32 am, Wed Aug 14, 2013.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents reversed course on Tuesday and approved the system's $3.8 billion budget, opting not to pursue a proposed 5 percent cut to the budgets of system institutions.

The regents plunged 11 public universities and nine state agencies into fiscal uncertainty late last week, just a few weeks shy of the next fiscal year. Led by Morris Foster, some regents called for increased accessibility and fiscal responsibility and requested that 5 percent of each institution's budget be given to Chancellor John Sharp, who would then decide if or how to administer the funds.

Other regents worried about the $190 million impact of the cuts and said they did not want to "blindside" the institutions with a fiscal overhaul about two weeks before the beginning of the next fiscal year on Sept. 1.

The proposal was tabled on Thursday, which sent A&M budget officers statewide scrambling to figure out how to account for a potential multimillion dollar budget cut. However, that uncertainty was cleared up Tuesday when the regents unanimously voted to adopt the originally proposed budget during a special meeting conducted by telephone. Regent Judy Morgan was the only member not present for the vote.

In the same motion, the regents moved to create a "debt management plan" for the next fiscal cycle, which will be managed by Sharp.

The only clue to what changed between Thursday and Tuesday was a comment by budget committee chairman Charles Schwartz, who said that, over the weekend, the "regents received additional information from system staff."

The regents had no public comment other than to thank each other, and the special meeting lasted approximately 10 minutes. They did not explain why they wanted a debt management plan or what they wanted the plan to accomplish.

Board chairman Phil Adams did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Following the vote, Schwartz, who expressed concern about the 5 percent cut, thanked Foster, its main proponent.

"Whenever a budget is examined, it leads to increased transparency, better process and ultimately better governance by the board," said Schwartz, who was the only regent other than Adams to comment publicly.

Sharp was also thankful, and praised Foster for nearly giving him the responsibility to dole out $190 million in public funds.

"I think all of the staff here will say it's been a good experience for us as well, particularly being able to give an insight into what the CEOs and all the budget staff go through in this process," Sharp told the regents. "Sometimes we forget you all have day jobs and this gave us an opportunity to get into this budget with y'all in a way we would like to do every time."

Following the meeting, Sharp expounded on the debt management plan. He said the plan would be used to give the regents feedback earlier in the budgeting process and would focus on debt repayments.

Although the budgeting process was sidelined and revised by calls for cuts, Sharp said the debt management plan wouldn't necessarily lead to budget reductions.

"I think we can take it and make it more concise for the regents," Sharp said of the budgets. "Debt management is an ongoing thing."

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  • Paradise posted at 7:30 am on Thu, Aug 15, 2013.

    Paradise Posts: 12

    The debt service budget makes up about 3% of the total $3.8 billion budget. Not sure why that is a driver for the Regents, but it worked.

  • Tenaja posted at 2:39 pm on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    Tenaja Posts: 24

    I wonder how many hours (and money) were lost between Thursday and Tuesday as colleges and departments across the System scrambled to put together revised budgets due to a fanciful whim?

  • elf posted at 11:30 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    elf Posts: 1406

    Retracting their faculty insult does not exonerate them from being responsible for terribly insulting the faculty and department administrators. For that there should be a public apology acknowledging the disastrous consequences.

  • Aggieprof posted at 10:36 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    Aggieprof Posts: 137

    The budget was ready since quite a while. The Board of Clowns does not bother to meet earlier to approve it. And usually this is not a problem, because their only duty is to rubber-stamp it .

    This time, though, they thought they needed to release a couple of farts to demonstrate their importance before approving it...

  • agnerd posted at 9:23 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    agnerd Posts: 497

    Just an observation: Seems like a terrible idea to be approving annual budgets a few weeks before the fiscal year starts. This is something that should be done months in advance. Even the student organizations I have knowledge of set their budgets 3-4 months in advance. The System needs to get its act together.

  • master of disaster posted at 8:12 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    master of disaster Posts: 373

    "Greater transparency"? These clowns are transparent, all right...

  • Aggieprof posted at 7:45 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    Aggieprof Posts: 137

    I guess now we even have to be thankful to the Board of Clowns for retracting their yet biggest stupidity......

  • jay cooper posted at 6:35 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    jay cooper Posts: 11

    "In the same motion, the regents moved to create a "debt management plan" for the next fiscal cycle, which will be managed by Sharp".

    Call it what you want, it's just another tactic to cover up what is really going on. Sharp didn't get his way in the 11th hour so he has to be creative and get the $190M another way, how long will this be tolerated?!!

    "They received additional information from system staff"? Maybe this came from someone on staff with morals? I doubt it!

  • ftw posted at 4:14 am on Wed, Aug 14, 2013.

    ftw Posts: 1075

    This sounds more like a way to create even more uncertainty for the colleges and employees in them, and have an excuse to cut budgets so they can hold back funding for their own purposes. What ever that may be. Yet the claim for outsourcing is to return more money to the classroom and promote research. And since much of the money was exactly for those purposes, what was this all about?

    How would this work in industry, or even a family when plans are in place and then the rug gets pulled out from under them. In industry, projects get killed and people lose their jobs. In a family, well, kids don't go to summer camp, vacations are eliminated and they may not go to college.

    In short, it's a life changer for many people. Change that may affect them for the rest of their lives. And not in a positive way.


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