Chief: LSU system needs stable funding

It takes nearly all the dollars the state appropriates to the LSU system to pay for mandatory fixed costs that don’t relate to educational pursuits, system chief William Jenkins said Friday.

Those year-to-year expenses to cover the costs of employee retirement, health insurance, liability insurance coverage, legislative audits and the like have risen 27 percent in the last five years, Jenkins said.

At the same time, the state dollars going to support the system have gone down to the point that state dollars for the current fiscal year totaled $384.2 million, with $333.6 million of it needed to cover mandatory costs, he said.

“Very soon the state general fund will only cover mandated costs,” said Jenkins.

“We in higher education have to find a way to alleviate this trend,” Jenkins told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

Jenkins and other LSU officials provided an update on what budget cuts have meant to their campuses and what they have had to do to get by.

Jenkins said a stable revenue source from the state “is fundamental to our success.”

“My plea would be whatever it would be that we could depend on it. If we knew what the state appropriation would be for the next 10 years ... we would do our very best to find (funding) alternatives,” Jenkins said.

Budget committee chairman Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, asked what Jenkins considered stable funding.

“Is it the SREB (Southern Regional Education Board) average?” Donahue asked. “Would that be stable funding?”

Jenkins said the SREB average would be a good target.

Jenkins said budget cuts have led to a 1,210-employee reduction throughout the system.

LSU Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Stuart Bell said those reductions are creating problems involving the availability of course offerings as well as larger class sizes. He said LSU main campus has 25 percent fewer faculty than the SREB average.

Bell said faculty salaries are also a concern.

“We have not been able to provide merit raises for four years, yet almost every peer of ours has been given raises,” he said.

Bell said professors’ pay is $7,300 below the Southern average.

“We must address faculty resources if we are going to continue that growth,” Bell said, referring to planned student enrolment increases.

Bell said the average faculty salary is $80,000 in all areas. Broken down the average is $109,500 for professors; $78,900 for associate professors; $69,200 for assistant professors; and $44,100 for instructors.

“If we don’t increase those salaries, we fall behind,” said Bell.