University of Wyoming trustees work to position university for lean times

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LARAMIE, Wyoming — The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees is positioning the state's only public four-year college to better deal with lean economic times and other fiscal emergencies.

The board on Thursday approved creating budget reserve accounts that can be tapped for daily campus operations and cost overruns with building projects.

UW Vice President of Administration Bill Mai said the university currently has no reserves to deal with sudden drops in state aid or unanticipated expenses for building projects. "To me it seems prudent, especially when you have a building program like have right now and have had," Mai said.

UW has seen cost overruns with several recent campus building projects.

In addition, Mai told the trustees that the university is having to scour individual college reserve accounts to help pay for a planned overhaul of the college's financial system. "There's no intent to shake down all the colleges and take reserves that have been set up for reasonable and logical uses," he said.

However, the university needs to look at all sources of money in order to meet its needs, Mai said.

Trustees will have to establish sources of revenue for the new reserve accounts and determine other specifics, such as how much money will accumulate in the accounts.

The university is anticipating less money from the state Legislature in the next two years because of the severe downturn in the state's mineral industry. State revenue forecasters say Wyoming is expected to see its General Fund revenues fall by about $500 million from the last fiscal year to the current fiscal year.

Gov. Matt Mead late last year announced a state hiring freeze and other cost-cutting measures to address the shortfall. His original budget recommendations to the Legislature included no salary increases for UW faculty and staff even though the trustees had previously identified higher pay as a top priority.

The Legislature convenes Feb. 8 in Cheyenne to craft Wyoming's two-year budget.

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