Budget deficit increases to $11 million

According to a recent analysis of the state budget that Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed for next year, the College would have to pay $3 million in increases for employee fringe benefits from its base budget, instead of receiving the state’s aid.

This cost to the College, combined with a proposed $4 million cut from the College’s base appropriation and the governor’s proposal to not fund $4 million in salary program increases for state-negotiated contracts, would leave the College with an $11 million financial hole to fill.

On top of that, the College would be funding 100 percent of Outstanding Scholar Recruitment Program merit scholarships for incoming freshmen, instead of the usual 30 percent, because the proposed budget phases out the program.

College officials, including College President R. Barbara Gitenstein and College Treasurer Barbara Wineberg, along with Corzine himself, have said that they hope state legislators find a way to restore funding to higher education. Corzine has said that if legislators find savings in other areas of the budget, he wants to put the money toward higher education first.

The legislature has a July 1 deadline to approve a budget for the state,

College administrators are already looking for ways to deal with the proposed loss of funding. “The College is presently discussing options that will include a combination of cost reductions, revenue enhancements and increases in tuition and fees,” Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations said.

Budget analysis was done by the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities for each state college and the results were shared with the College on Thursday, Golden said.

The fringe benefits for employees, which include health benefits, pension, insurance for unemployment and disability, would not be affected, Golden said. However, the College as a whole “would be impacted because the proposal is to shift the cost from the state to the colleges, not to eliminate the payments,” he said.

Golden said that to advocate for increased funding, Gitenstein and the office of Public Affairs “have set up meetings with legislators and editorial boards to discuss the impact of these drastic cuts.”

“The volunteer boards of the College have been fully informed of the nature of these cuts and the president expects that each will develop its own specific advocacy plan,” he added.

Golden said that the Student Government Association (SGA), in addition to its letter- and postcard-writing campaigns and petition drive, is planning to participate in a statewide student rally in Trenton. The faculty senate has begun its own letter-writing campaign, he said.

Annelise Catanzaro, SGA executive president, said that on April 27 every institution in higher education will participate in a student rally in Trenton. She said she hopes that Student Finance Board and other student organizations will fund the buses to take students from the College to the rally.

The day of the rally will also be the last day of SGA’s postcard-writing campaign, Catanzaro said. She said that she and the office of Public Relations are working to set up a meeting with legislators for that afternoon to submit the postcards in person. Catanzaro said that the meeting will distinguish the College from other schools, noting that some of the student protesters could get out of hand.

She said that campuswide e-mails from SGA will ask students to participate in the advocacy efforts and to sign a petition to restore funding to New Jersey higher education on a Rutgers University Web site. A similar message will be posted on the Web site to vote for SGA elections, she said.