State budget cuts equate to a 13.4 percent funding loss for WCU

Budget cuts and budget cut disagreements are the center of discussion across the United States and in North Carolina. The N.C. legislature recently passed a final budget after overriding a veto by Gov. Bev Perdue, which is good for two years and includes cuts to education and other sectors.

In all of N.C.’s history, no North Carolina governor had ever vetoed a state budget before this year. Gov. Perdue publically opposed the budget to the media and tried to raise support for her veto for more money for public education, more financial support for Planned Parenthood, public healthcare support and more to be included in the proposed budget.

After opposing the new budget, Perdue tried to veto the proposed budget, but the veto was overridden. Part of the newly passed budget will include no sales tax, no money for Planned Parenthood, reduced tax-dollar support for health care, reduced environmental regulations, and reduced taxpayer support for public schools and universities, according to The New American Magazine.

Phil Berger, the Senate President Pro Tem Republican, said, “The budget we’re looking at balances without a tax increase. Despite the governor’s frantic media campaign, apocalyptic rhetoric and creative accounting, the facts are clear: our $19.7 billion budget will do more for public classrooms and help the economy create more jobs than her own proposal.”

After the overridden veto, according to the The New American Magazine, Perdue said, “Tonight, the Republican-controlled legislature turned its back on North Carolina’s long-standing commitment to our people to provide quality schools, community colleges and universities — all to save a penny. I vetoed the Republican General Assembly’s budget because I believe it will cause generational damage to this state. We must have a highly trained workforce for our state to be globally competitive, and that education begins in preschool classrooms and continues all the way through our community colleges and universities. They are all equally important.”

What does this mean for WCU? According to past Chancellor John W. Bardo, WCU received an allocated budget cut of $14.17 million, which represents 16.4 percent of WCU’s state appropriated budget. However, $2.5 million was earned in enrollment growth funding, which will reduce the campus’ state cuts to a net 13.4 percent.

Bardo also said, “With more than $400 million in budget reductions, on top of previous cuts and reversions, the UNC system and WCU are facing dire circumstances. There will be less money available for faculty and staff salaries, campus operations, student scholarships and financial aid, and many other things.”

In a statement from new Chancellor David O. Belcher, he said, “The cuts are severe and we are continuing to search for ways to ease their impact on the educational experience we provide our students. The state budget cuts will force a reduction in the number of course sections we will be able to offer, an increase in class size, an increase in the time it will take students to graduate, and a reduction in critical support programs for our students in the academic year ahead.”

Overall, WCU has sustained a total reduction of $29.7 million in state funding in the last three years in the down economy.

“Despite the adverse effect of these cumulative cuts, we are irrevocably committed to our students and to the Western Carolina tradition of continuously enhancing the breadth and quality of the educational experience we offer them,” Belcher said. “The deterioration in state funds will make that more difficult.”

A breakdown of how the cuts will specifically affect WCU faculty, staff and students and the number of positions the university will have to eliminate are expected soon.