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Budget cuts mean people at Snow College

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A 4 percent budget cut looming over Utah's colleges and universities has administrators pinching pennies wherever they can in order to avoid cutting personnel.

Smaller schools, however, "feel the pinch more than the bigger institutions," said Bill Sederburg, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education.

Snow College has recently notified the campus community of its plan to eliminate 21 positions at their Ephraim and Richfield campus locations. The plan heads off not only the original 4 percent budget cut edict, but additional expected cuts of up to 8 percent.

"We were able to find enough in one-time funding and other savings not to affect the people on campus until June 30, when FY09 is over," said Snow spokesman Greg Dart. Cuts were made across the board in expense accounts, but he said the bulk of the budget cut plan will be a "reduction of force."

All of Utah's higher education institutions have delivered scenarios to the governor's office, detailing what further cuts would mean. None have been as aggressive as Snow, to pre-empt additional setbacks. Snow President Scott Wyatt has said he wanted to give people time to prepare for their future.

For the current budget year at Snow, Wyatt has ordered a cut of $900,000 total. The 8 percent cut made to the FY10 budget equals nearly $1.78 million, and reflects the loss of both faculty and staff positions, the re-working of several offices on campus, as well as cost-saving measures expected to take effect July 1.

"Our goal is to make it as easy on people as possible," Dart said. The cuts were announced in November to give people reasonable time to find other options. "In a community as small as ours, it is especially difficult to find jobs and people may have to re-locate or consider additional education. It is really going to affect people here differently than it would elsewhere."

In all, 12 to 13 people will be laid off at Snow. Dart said the difference will be made up by eliminating unfilled positions, transferring faculty, early retirement options and using "an innovative approach to student services." The school will be eliminating the office of student services and in turn, will be training several employees to fulfill all student needs, including advisement, financial aid, registration and housing in one function.

"There are some cost-saving measures worth implementing regardless of the budget cuts," he said. The cuts are "proportionate" between Snow's two campuses and throughout the departments, as much as possible, Dart said. However, the athletic department took the largest hit, when compared with the total percentage of the budget.

Sederburg has said that personnel make up 80 percent of budgets in higher education. He anticipates that any further cuts will end up threatening the people on campuses throughout the state.

"When you look at an 8 percent cut at an institution as small as Snow, it's going to be very painful," Dart said. Administration, which is also losing one position, worked to alleviate as much impact as possible on the campus, but cutting at least some people was inevitable.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com