Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
As you may know, The University of Southern Mississippi receives approximately $94 million in state funding each year.
A recent meeting with the heads of all agencies and institutions who receive state funding reminds us of a significant initiative that will be on Mississippi’s November General Election ballot – a referendum that would mandate funding for K-12 education at a level that will necessitate reductions in other areas of state government.
We are writing today to inform you of this potential change in public policy as well as possible associated impacts to our university’s funding levels.
Each year the Mississippi Legislature has full authority to set the budget for the State of Mississippi.
House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson has asked each state agency and institution that receives General Funds (except Medicaid and K-12) to evaluate and provide a written impact statement for a potential 7.8 percent funding reduction in state appropriations for the current fiscal year and going forward.
The purpose of this evaluation exercise is to provide an assessment of the impact of adoption of the K-12 referendum, Initiative 42, that would mandate funding for K-12 education in accordance with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) formula, regardless of revenue or need for investment at other state agencies, including our public institutions of higher learning.
The university has provided the IHL Board office with anticipated impact estimations to be included in a larger IHL system response.
As lifelong educators, we certainly support full funding for all educational systems, including K-12, community colleges and our college and university system.
However, it is critical for us to understand the long-term consequences of an amendment to the constitution directing funding to one particular branch of education from this point forward.
The challenge we now face is balancing an initiative we support against the potential impact for all other state activities within education and beyond.
For USM, a 7.8 percent reduction in state appropriations would result in a loss of approximately $7.4 million.
As you know, the university completed a process last year to balance current revenue with expenditures, and there are not sufficient reserves to absorb a reduction of this level without impact to services.
It is also unlikely that a tuition increase would offset the total revenue loss because of the anticipated negative impact a significant price increase would have on enrollment of current and future students.
As a result, it is estimated that the university could be forced to eliminate up to 109 positions (including faculty and staff) in order to implement a reduction at this level.
It is important to understand that if this reduction in state support becomes a reality, the university’s senior administrators, faculty, staff and students would be engaged in dialogue about how to determine specific reductions and/or fee increases.
Though the possibility of the passage of Initiative 42 is real, this impact exercise is not a legislative mandate to immediately cut our FY 2016 appropriations.
However, it is a clear signal that all non-K-12 state-supported institutions (including universities) will be significantly adversely impacted if the November referendum passes.
We encourage each of you, as citizens of the state of Mississippi, to follow discussions about this topic over the coming months.
Although we will not know the depth or breadth of possible associated impacts until after this fall’s election, updates will be provided to the university community if additional pertinent information becomes available.
Rodney D. Bennett President
Vice President for External Affairs
This is a press release from July 17.