By Steve Lang, News and Publications
   Despite significant reductions in state appropriations, Sul Ross State University President Bill Kibler offered some good news for faculty and staff during Monday’s (Aug. 28) State of the University message.
   No layoffs and a 1.5 percent salary increase, with a minimum $400 raise for employees earning $26,665 or less.
   “Our compensation plan depended on enrollment reaching our projection,” Kibler said, “and there is pretty good news in that area. For the fourth straight Fall Semester, enrollment is projected to increase, which enables us to provide a pay raise.”
   Sul Ross will experience a $2 million reduction in general revenue appropriations for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, based on the final state budget approved by the Texas Legislature in May. In addition, the appropriation Sul Ross receives from the state for staff group insurance premiums was also reduced by $428,000 over the two years.
   “This represents a reduction in general revenue funding of 10 percent and a reduction in our overall budget of 4.5 percent,” Kibler said. In addition, the budget includes a 33 percent across-the-board reduction of special item funding, a cutback experienced by most state institutions.
   For Sul Ross, the special item reduction represents about $2.5 million over the two years. “We’re more reliant on this funding, as it affects a lot of areas, including the Museum of the Big Bend and Center for Big Bend Studies,” he said.
   Sul Ross is one of 14 universities, state colleges and technical colleges across Texas that will experience the maximum 10 percent reduction in general revenue appropriations. These institutions account for nearly 30 percent of the state’s public higher education institutions, excluding community colleges. 
   On the bright side, the state budget includes nearly $1.2 million in “hold harmless” funding for Sul Ross, which limits the general revenue reduction to 10 percent.  “Without this ‘hold harmless’ funding, Sul Ross would have experienced a nearly $3.2 million -- or 15.8 percent – reduction in general revenue appropriations,” said Kibler.
   The budget reduces Research Support for Sul Ross by $22,000, the result of a 10 percent across-the-board reduction in research funding for all institutions in the state. 
   “We will be doing a lot of belt tightening in the next two years, and using even more creative money managing, but all the while we will continue our goal of increasing enrollment and retention rates,” Kibler said.
   While there will be no employee layoffs, a number of positions will remain frozen due to the statewide hiring freeze, including several secretarial positions. The freeze has mandated sharing of support staff, with 11 secretaries now each supporting two offices approximately half-time each.
   “No department on campus will be without staff support, and we have a minimum of 50 percent coverage in secretarial support,” Kibler said. “This is far from ideal, but we believe 50 percent is better than no support whatsoever.”
   “We will continue to look for ways to cut costs and maximize revenues,” he said. “It is paramount that we all remain committed to fulfilling our academic mission, while maintaining the qualities and the uniqueness that defines Sul Ross State University.”