On October 14 the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was informed that the UW System will be required to make up a large portion of the $174.3 million state budget lapse being implemented by the Department of Administration (DOA) for 2011-13.
Unlike budget cuts, which come before money is given to universities by the state, budget lapses require funds to be paid back to the state during the fiscal year.
"A base cut means that they take from our budget and it’s gone forever. A lapse in this case is something that they take for the year, so instead of spending that money on campus for things we had planned for, we have to give it back," Budget Director Erin Hintz said.
The UW-Stevens Point administration have not come to any decisions yet about what projects, developments or renovations that will have to be scrapped to return the money.
"We will be looking at the challenges that presents for us, which includes the inability to replace obsolete equipment, infrastructure issues that we will not be able to take care of, along with all sorts of things, but we do not have the specifics yet from the deans and the departments yet on what the fallout is going to be," said Vice Chancellor of Business Services Greg Diemer.
Hintz also said that one possible blowback of this lapse could be that the university might have to hold non-teaching positions empty, such as office positions, which would disrupt the efficiency at which the campus operates.
The UW campuses will be required to account for $65.6 million of the projected state losses, which is 38 percent of the immediate budget reductions, even though the UW System only accounts for seven percent of state spending as a whole.
So far, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has not heeded the UW System Administration’s appeals against such a disproportionate cut.
"$2.7 million is what we can expect to pay for sure, but if [the lapse] is worse than they projected, we could pay back up to $4.27 million," Hintz said.
The UW System claims that the balance is offset between schools and other government agencies.
"We are not asking to be exempted from the lapse but rather we are asking for a more reasonable calculation that assigns a more equitable target for our UW System and our institutions," said Freda Harris, Vice President of Budget and Planning.
The budget lapse has not been finalized and could grow by the end of 2013 to over $300 million, making the effects permanent.
"They’re calling it a ‘lapse,’ but if it becomes more of a long term thing then it could be considered a base cut," Hintz said.