LSU AgCenter facing more budget cuts

By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY - As the LSU System braces for its next round of budget cuts, the midyear cuts for fiscal year 2010-11, the LSU AgCenter is in the center of the issue.

Locally, that means the Rice Research Station is facing another round of working with less to keep their work going.

“We’ve had to shift state supports and find other sources of money, fortunately we get appropriations from other sources,” said Dr. Steve Linscombe, professor and director of the Southwest Region of the LSU AgCenter. “They have been helpful in avoiding layoffs at the Rice Research Station.”

Linscombe said that the LSU AgCenter, overall, has had three years full of devastating cuts.

“If you look at the LSU AgCenter as a whole, we’ve had some devastating and substantial cuts,” he said. “Recently, we were given a $3 million reduction in order to address short falls in last fiscal year’s budget.”

Linscombe stresses that this is not a midyear budget cut, but the AgCenter may not be spared from those cuts as well. The state’s Revenue Estimation Committee will meet once again in December, more news about any midyear cuts will come then, but it is all a part of the unknown which Linscombe and his staff, as well as the entire LSU System, have been dealing with for the past three years.

“The state does the best job it can to estimate funds through the Revenue Estimation Committee,” he said. “It isn’t a perfect science however and a lot of variables are only educated guesses.”

Sales taxes and various other variables are hard to estimate, as Linscombe points out, thus its no easy task to estimate what the revenues for each entity will be and part of what led to the $3 million cut.

“What the future holds is unknown; we don’t know what to expect,” said Linscombe. “We have been told to prepare for substantial additional cuts, but all we can do is wait and see.”

The LSU System has already begun laying out its next group of cuts. According to LSU’s latest update, dated October 20, 2010, LSU has submitted a revised plan for meeting a new mid-year budget reduction of $5.1 million, which is being required by the Division of Administration.

On October 15, or a week prior to the new plans, the system submitted plans for $2.2 million mid-year budget reduction. The schools themselves were given higher budget cuts so that the LSU AgCenter and Pennington Biomedical Research Center could be spared the larger mid-year cuts.

To meet the cut, LSU has outlined other cut plans, amounting to 3.7 percent cuts within the LSU system.

The LSU system has already seen $42 million in reductions from the state, starting in January 2009. These latest rounds will move the number to $47 million in 22 months, or more than $2 million per month.

Meanwhile, the flagship university in Baton Rouge has been garnering a great deal of national attention over the last two weeks after LSU Student Government Association President J Hudson wrote a letter to the edtior of a New Hamsphire newspaper, The Keene Sentinel, and since then elsewhere. The letter was published in New Hampshire as Jindal was on the road campaigning.

Hudson requested that Jindal come home and meet with LSU students to talk about the looming cuts instead of going on the road to, among other things, build his political brand.

“Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is spending more time in your state than the one he was elected to represent,” wrote Hudson, who said the almost daily litany of Jindal’s travels “makes me believe that he is more interested in running for president than running the state of Louisiana.

“On behalf of the students whose hopes for a brighter future will soon be crushed, I beg you to return to Louisiana and fix your state’s serious problems. You’ve neglected your constituents long enough.”

The move has seemingly put the national spotlight on Louisiana’s educational budget cut woes. Since 2008, public college and universities have seen $208 million in cuts. In the next fiscal year, that number could more than double as public colleges and universities are bracing for another $290 million, or more, in potential cuts.

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