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BSU officials warning of $2.5 million shortfall

Bemidji State University faces a $2.5 million shortfall in its next fiscal year, but won't decide how to fill that gap until later when the Legislature's done with the next biennium state budget.

BSU officials, however, said in a statement issued late Wednesday that any budget decisions would protect the "core" of the university and "build to the future."

BSU officials told faculty and staff Wednesday that they should prepare for a fiscal year 2010 budget shortfall of about $2.5 million, which they attributed to the state's economic climate and Minnesota's projected $4.8 billion budget deficit for the next biennium, fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty in his budget proposed a 10.7 percent reduction to the state's appropriation to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system as part of an 8.2 percent cut in higher education spending.

No details on how Bemidji State will solve the projected shortfall were offered in Wednesday's statement.

"Before making a more concrete determination as to its course of action, the university must await both the state of Minnesota's February economic forecast, which will be announced in early March, and a tuition decision by the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system for the 2010-11 biennium, which is expected in June," the statement said.

"There are a lot of matters outside of our control that are in the process of being decided in St. Paul," said Bill Maki, Bemidji State's vice president for finance and administration. "We're trying to communicate the situation to the campus using the best information that is available to us at this time.

"We expect changes to our projections for 2010 and 2011 as we get better information," Maki said in the statement. "But we're in position where we are already preparing for this, and we are using a $2.5 million shortfall as a guideline to set the landscape for how we approach the next few months. The president has a responsibility to balance the budget."

BSU's approach to projected shortfall will be guided by three principles, officials said:

-- The university's budget will be balanced.

-- The core of the university will be protected.

-- The university will continue building for the future.

Planning for shortfall solutions for fiscal 2010 doesn't take into account an unallotment of $588,466 that Pawlenty ordered in late December. University officials said the money was returned to the state, and the university is currently finalizing a proposal as to how that repayment will be addressed in this current fiscal year.

BSU will make future budget decisions with the assumption that a future unallotment by the state is possible.

"We'll need flexibility in the event we are faced with another unallotment," Maki said.