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UNM approves $2.9 billion 2018 budget

Students at UNM make their way across campus in this file photo. JOURNAL FILE








With just over two weeks to go before the start of the new fiscal year, New Mexico’s largest university finally has a budget in place.

The University of New Mexico’s governing board Tuesday unanimously approved a $2.91 billion budget for 2018, establishing the financial road map for an operation that includes the main campus, UNM branches and the Health Sciences Center.

That marks a 1.9 percent increase from the original 2017 budget, but the entire increase is tied to Health Sciences. UNM’s main campus budget actually will fall by 1.9 percent from a year ago to $833.7 million, reflecting fewer state dollars and students.

Tuesday’s vote caps months of budgetary limbo wrought by political acrimony in Santa Fe. In April, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed all higher education funding, legislative branch funding and tax increases approved by lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session. The funding was not restored until the special session convened in late May.

UNM ultimately sustained a 1 percent drop in state funding. Officials also anticipate declining enrollment due in part to the legislative lottery scholarship’s significantly diminished value.

The scholarship will cover just 60 percent of tuition in 2017-18, down from 90 percent.

To cover the shortfall, UNM will use $1 million in reserves and raise tuition for upper-division undergraduate courses and for graduate students and some graduate classes. The school also will save $2.4 million by trimming expenses like travel, $1.9 million through workforce reduction and attrition, and $200,000 from upper-level administration cuts.

It’s a tenuous balance, interim President Chaouki Abdallah said.

“The budget funds current operations with very little room for error or uncertainties,” Abdallah said in a statement. “Large swings in enrollment, or head winds due to any number of external factors could affect our revenues. Most importantly, however, this is a belt-tightening budget and as such limits our ability to invest in people and new initiatives.”

Health Sciences’ budget will grow 3.6 percent to $2.03 billion, driven mostly by increased patient care services. Health Sciences includes academic entities such as the medical school but also UNM Hospital, Sandoval Regional Medical Center and a medical group.

Ava Lovell, senior executive officer for finance and administration, said the budget reflects performance metrics for clinicians — from how many patients they see to how many surgeries they perform — that must be achieved to reach balance.

“On a $2 billion (budget), we’re at break even,” she said. “So that’s a little nerve-wracking.”

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