Across North Carolina, state agencies are grappling with budget cuts, and Gov. Beverly Perdue has asked them to prepare for reductions of up to nine percent in next year's spending plans.
UNC system President Erskine Bowles wants to go in another direction. While the university system has been working on budget-cut scenarios of up to seven percent, Bowles now is asking state leaders to limit the university's damage to five percent.
And he doesn't want those cuts to be permanent, either. When the economy sours, public agencies generally start with one-time cuts, which basically just reduce spending for a single budget year. Permanent cuts require the elimination of programs and often bring about layoffs.
In a letter to members of the UNC system's governing board, Bowles writes this week than the university simply cannot withstand cuts greater than the five percent level, and they should only apply as long as the economic downturn does.
"I am sure that no members of the legislature would cut education to the extent they may have to if they did not face a severe economic crisis," Bowles writes. "Again, that is why I have suggested making the duration of the cuts match the length of the crisis - so that when the crisis ends, we will have the economic resources to spring forward and give our students the education they need to compete with the world's best and brightest, wherever they may be."
The UNC system has absorbed $175 million in cuts this year, Bowles writes. A 7 percent cut next year would prompt the elimination of 1,600 jobs across the 17-campus university system, 1,000 of which are currently filled. Translation: 1,000 layoffs.
The UNC system's board meets next week. You can click on the attachment below to read Bowles' entire, four-page letter.