ENMU-R Vice President of Business Affairs Eric Johnston-Ortiz tells Community College Board members at a Wednesday meeting that a preliminary budget for the upcoming year includes cuts of more than $500,000. From left are Mireya Trujillo and Patricia Parsons. Dr. John Madden, president of the university, is shown near Johnston-Ortiz. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)
In the midst of confusion and uncertainty regarding state funding of higher education, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell has received initial approval of its 2017-18 budget that cuts revenues by more than $500,000.
Twelve days after Gov. Susana Martinez announced that she had vetoed all funding for public higher education for the fiscal year 2018 and will wait for an upcoming special session of the New Mexico Legislature to restore state monies to institution’s coffers, the Community College Board voted at its Wednesday afternoon meeting to approve a budget effective July 1 with revenues of $16,765,289, a decrease of $589,345 from 2016-17.
Operating expenditures also have been reduced by a bit more than $509,000. They total $17,039,713. But, with other sources of funds, the university is expected to end up with about $4.5 million in [auth] surplus in current funds.
The budget still must be voted on by the ENMU Board of Regents at its Friday meeting.
The budget was formulated based in part on what the Legislature had passed prior to the governor’s veto, Vice President for Business Affairs Eric Johnston-Ortiz told board members. That bill suggested some cuts.
University officials also played it safe and projected revenues based on flat enrollment, he said, but, in fact, ENMU-R hopes to see increased enrollment.
ENMU-R President John Madden expressed his concerns about the situation and the effect it has on the university, including that the accreditation team visiting the school next week will likely have to comment on the state funding uncertainties in its report.
“We are being held hostage by the process. We are completely defunded. … This is not about Roswell. This is not about community colleges,” Madden told the board.
Asked by Board President Eloise Blake what will happen come July 1, which is when state funding is typically made available for the next fiscal year, Madden said, “I can’t tell you a definite answer. I don’t know. It is our hope that cooler heads will prevail and that something will happen between now and July 1.”
Martinez had announced in statements and press conferences that she cut all of the Legislature’s appropriations to higher education to balance the budget after rejecting the $350 million in tax increases legislators had passed. She also wrote in her comments about the vetoes that she was upset that the Legislature had not considered her nominations for university regents at several institutions, given that regents are the ones reviewing institutions’ operations.
At an April 12 press conference in Roswell, she added that she thinks that higher education institutions need to take a closer look at how they operate when some react to budget cuts by shifting costs to students in the form of tuition increases.
But she said she believes that her office and legislators will come to an agreement soon so that a special session can convene and approve a new budget before the fiscal year ends.
“I have no doubt that we are going to find a solution,” she said. “Higher education will be funded, and we are going to do that without raising taxes.”
Johnston-Ortiz remarked that the budget he presented was a changeable concept.
“In my world, everyone knows, this is flowing,” he said, referring to the budget documents in his hand. “You take a picture of where it is today, and then it flows forward from there and we adjust it as needed.”
Madden said that the situation affects the mindsets of current and potential staff and students, some of whom tell him that they are considering other states for their future.
“For New Mexico to realize its full potential, you can’t have this brain drain,” he said. “We need smart people to stay here.”
Board Member Ralph Fresquez praised Dr. Madden and his staff for how they have dealt with budget cuts over the past year and added that he thinks that students interested in the types of vocational and technical programs offered by ENMU-R are more likely to stay in the area for college than go out of state.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at email@example.com.