Tennessee College Leaders Put Hopes on Stimulus
January 27, 2009
By Colby Sledge - The Tennessean
State university leaders are hoping a federal stimulus package will help relieve state budget woes that probably will result in employee furloughs and layoffs.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning and University of Tennessee President John Petersen co-signed a letter to the state's Washington delegation last week asking for support for the $825 billion federal stimulus package.
The package would allocate $39 billion for public education, as well as at least $3.5 billion for infrastructure upgrades. The House version of the package contains $6 billion for such repairs and renovations.
"This seems to change on a daily basis, but the understanding is that when we put the letter together, it's the best chance we had for one-time money," Manning said.
If approved as currently proposed, the federal stimulus package could reduce planned cuts in state higher education from $181.6 million to $103.1 million, according to the Board of Regents.
Senate committees are expected to take up the proposed package today, and the House could vote on it as early as Wednesday.
While the package moves through Congress, the Tennessee Board of Regents will pay Washington-based consultant Bell & Trice Enterprises up to $40,000 to offer advice and plans on personnel cuts that could include tenured faculty.
Manning and other board members said the contract could protect the board from legal issues arising from personnel decisions.
"If we don't do it well, it could cost us a lot of money," Manning said.
As the state budget stands now, furloughs and salary reductions are probably a bridge to layoffs, Manning said.
Petersen has said that could lay off 700 people.
It's unclear whether the stimulus package could affect personnel cuts.