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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Regents passed a more than $3 billion budget that includes hundreds of millions in revenue from Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance.
But how to balance the budgets for the sports teams remains a major topic in financial discussions at the University of New Mexico. And the issue isn’t going away.
Regents voted during a meeting Thursday to approve consolidated budgets for UNM’s Health Sciences Center, branches and main campus for next year.
And the main campus budget calls for the athletics department to get another break to the tune of about $1 million.
“I’m disappointed that we decided today that we’re just going to kick the can down the road again,” Regent Robert Schwartz said.
Schwartz and Regent Kimberly Sanchez Rael were the dissenters in a 5-2 vote on a main campus consolidated budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which starts in July.
Schwartz said he was concerned about a part of the budget that calls for the university to essentially funnel $1.2 million to the athletics department for a debt service payment on a years-old renovation project at UNM’s basketball arena.
“It’s a real struggle to try to make college athletics work today,” Regent President Doug Brown said. “We need a longer-range plan about how we can survive.”
UNM will spend roughly $3.1 billion next year, which is up about 7% over the current year.
About $2.2 billion of the budget is for the UNM Health Sciences Center, which relies on $531 million in Medicaid revenue, $407 million from commercial insurance and $317 million from Medicare, according to university budget documents.
UNM’s main campus will have a budget of about $884 million next year, which will be funded in part by $206 million in state appropriations, $185 million from grants and contracts and $182 million in tuition and fees, according to UNM documents.
State appropriations were up about $14.9 million, or 7.8%, compared to the current fiscal year, according to budget documents.
About $325 million of the main campus budget will go toward instruction and general expenses. Spending on that item has been flat; in 2016, about $335 million went to instruction and general expenses, according to UNM documents.
Regents last month voted to set tuition and fees, and salaries for next year. Students will pay about 3.1% more in tuition and a similar percentage increase in their mandatory fees. Faculty and staff will get an across-the-board 3% raise.
Despite tuition going up, UNM is planning for tuition revenue to go down because of fewer students.
UNM’s main campus is expecting to bring in about $133 million next year in unrestricted tuition dollars.
The university brought in about $136 million in tuition this year. But that amount was down from the $143 million the university had planned to bring in until last fall, when the incoming freshmen class was surprisingly small.
The budget for next year is taking a “conservative” approach with enrollment projections.
“That was an unprecedented fall in enrollment, and we don’t know for sure why it happened,” interim Provost Rich Wood said. “We’re just being very cautious and building in a hedge in case it continues.”
Less for athletics
UNM athletics will have a $32.3 million budget next year.
The athletics department is getting nearly $3.8 million in state appropriations next year. In the current fiscal year, the athletics department got about $2.6 million, according to university documents.
Still, the department is struggling to make budget next year, despite the larger appropriation from the state and some cost-saving measures taken in the last year, budget documents show.
Athletics last year cut four sports to save money: men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and women’s beach volleyball.
Officials said at the time they expect to eventually save more than $1 million a year, but it could take several years to get there, as students’ scholarships continue to be honored.
The athletics department came under scrutiny in the last year after it failed to make budgets repeatedly for about a decade.
The department now regularly creates Enhanced Fiscal Oversight Program reports to address concerns from the state higher education department and others about its finances.
The department’s original expense budget for this year was $32.9 million, and it will likely come in under that amount by about $300,000. Next year’s expense budget forecasts another dip of about $370,000.
Schwartz said he’s hopeful that next fall there will be more discussion about the role that athletics should play at UNM. He said that colleges throughout the university have had to make painful cuts in recent years.
Athletics’ “need is no more desperate than the College of Fine Arts, or the College of Arts and Sciences or other colleges. I must say, I don’t like that message. And that’s the message that we are sticking with unless we affirmatively change it for next year,” Schwartz said. “We are at the point where that type of cut to any place in the university is truly devastating. Next year, we’ll have a fuller discussion on that issue.”
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