Jackson State University will cut its next budget by nearly 8 percent and borrow $6 million as it tries to cut expenses and rebuild financial reserves.
The moves at Mississippi’s largest historically black university went forward Thursday as College Board trustees approved budgets for all eight public universities for the upcoming year. The system’s overall budget will fall by $30 million, or less than 1 percent, to $4.5 billion, largely because state appropriations have fallen. Universities started the current budget with $773 million in state aid, but after multiple cuts will start the 2018 budget on July 1 with $667 million.
The board also eliminated nine Jackson State academic departments through mergers and downgraded the School of Journalism and Media Studies to a department. Supporters of some units, including the Department of Speech Communications, had questioned the plan. That department will be merged with the Department of English and Foreign Languages.
The university is also laying off 42 non-faculty employees, suspending men’s and women’s golf teams for two years, and moving to close a branch campus in Madison. The cuts are supposed to save $2 million, after interim President Rod Paige earlier cut more than $4 million by eliminating vacant positions and curtailing travel spending.
“We’ve gotten a little bit off base in our eagerness to serve students, spending a little bit more than we should,” Paige said of the departmental mergers.
The borrowing will repay Jackson State for money it spent on construction, equipment, and software in recent years. A bank will loan the money to Jackson State for 10 years, charging 3.1 percent interest. Enhancing the school’s financial breathing room, Jackson State will only pay interest for the first four years. Paige and interim Chief Financial Officer Marvel Turner said the $6 million will bolster reserves heading into next year, but said some money could pay bills at the end of the current budget.
Spending in Jackson State’s main budgets will fall by $12 million to $143 million next year. That’s supposed to produce a surplus adding $3 million to reserves.
“We’ve stopped the bleeding,” Turner said.
College Board officials said there could be more budget changes in August after an accounting firm ensures revenue and spending projections are accurate.
Former president Carolyn Meyers resigned last year, days after trustees intervened in Jackson State finances, citing dwindling cash reserves. Current Mississippi Valley State University President William Bynum was chosen by trustees last month as the new president over the objections of some faculty, students and alumni. He takes over from Paige on July 1. Minutes show trustees have agreed to boost Bynum’s salary to $375,000 a year. Bynum now makes $225,000 at Valley, while Meyers was making $270,500 at Jackson State.
This article originally appeared on 6/15/17 in the ClarionLedger