ENMU sees less-than-rosy immediate future

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Eastern New Mexico University administration and regents participated in a little crystal-ball gazing at Friday’s regular meeting and saw tougher times ahead for their budget.

Officials from all three campuses presented their preliminary 2008-2009 budgets that have to be submitted to the state’s Higher Education Department.

“We have no idea what the final budget will look like a year from now,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “But we’re required to put it down on paper now.”

According to Gamble, much of the budgetary uncertainty pertains to enrollment decreases experienced throughout the state as New Mexico’s economy improved and potential students enter the workforce instead of college. Also tied to that is not knowing when or if HED will change the funding formula because of enrollment drops, he said.

ENMU’s Portales and Ruidoso campuses were among the few in the state that held their own with enrollment. Months ago Gamble told regents to be prepared for a drop this fall, but Friday he said it may be possible for the Portales campus to stay even with last year’s enrollment.

Vice President for Business Affairs Scott Smart projected a decrease in revenue and a flat enrollment picture for the 2008-2009 budget.
“Until Cannon Air Force Base gets right with its population, we’re going to be scared,” Gamble said. “Again, our plan of attack and intention is not to go (above) 5 percent (enrollment decrease).”

The state has indicated that schools with more than a 5 percent drop would experience a funding formula change, though that didn’t happen this year.

Smart told regents the university would be facing several years of higher utility rates based on water and power rate increases that have been announced.

Regent Alva Carter questioned the fact that utilities would rise in the budget despite conservation efforts recently made and yet to be completed around campus in new and existing buildings.

Smart said utility costs for the new student housing project would be a net gain but would probably double for the Science Building because of increased electricity usage as a result of the addition of new equipment.
In other business regents:

• Approved an addendum adding seven names to the spring 2007 graduation list.

• Approved the summer 2007 graduation list.

• Approved unpaid leave of absence for Nina Björnsson, associate professor of English for the 2007-2008 academic year. Björnsson has the chance to teach on sabbatical in Iceland.

• Approved a list of research and public service projects for the 2008-2009 year. The list and the funding level for each program were the same as the 2007-2008 year with the exception of Child Care Services, a $125,000 new request.