Lapses: more state budget cuts in UWSP future
MIchael Wilson
According to an email from Chancellor Bernie Patterson to the campus, the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point will lose another $2.7 to $4.7 million from its current funding depending on an upcoming Joint Finance Committee decision, adding to the roughly $8 million budget cut UWSP saw in the state budget that passed this summer.

"Our aim is to be as strategic as possible," Patterson said. "But I’m going to be straight with you: Some of these reductions will hurt, especially if we are called upon to make ongoing reductions in future years."

Citing economic uncertainty, Mike Huebsch, Wisconsin’s Secretary of Administration, wrote in a letter to state agencies that the state would cut a larger share than expected from agency operations over the biennium. "I am requesting all agencies to plan for a larger lapse in the event that revenues are not as strong as assumed in the budget," Huebsch said.

On top of the budget cuts made specifically to different public services—including the $250 million cut to the UW System—the state’s biennium budget additionally called for a $174.3 million cut from the operations of state agencies.

A lapse is a one-time reduction to state agencies’ allocated funds that is returned to the state’s main account, according to Greg Summers, UWSP Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The $174.3 million in lapses written into the current budget could be raised to $300 million in returns from agencies’ budgets, according to the Department of Administration.

David Giroux, UW System Spokesperson, says this will mean the university system will face an additional cut of $65.7 million. The UW System receives roughly 7 percent of the state’s budget, but is being asked to absorb "a much larger share" of the lapses—about 38 percent, said Giroux, who promised that the UW System Administration would work with the legislature to reverse this disparity.

"With near record enrollments, campuses have made firm commitments to students, faculty and staff that cannot be reversed mid-semester," Giroux said.

"Unlike past biennia," Huebsch said, "these lapses may not be taken from segregated appropriations or any program revenue appropriations within the University of Wisconsin System." In other words, for the UW System, the funds will need to come from structural changes and cuts, rather than outlying funds.

"Areas such as segregated fees, auxiliary operations (room and board, parking, etc.), and tuition cannot be used. Differential tuition is another ‘untouchable’ for campuses that have a differential tuition program," Patterson said.

The final amount ultimately depends on which lapse plan the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee selects, and how much is ultimately asked from the UW System. "The fact is we will need to make reductions," Patterson said. "Until we know an exact number from the state, we can’t pinpoint all the actions we will need to take."