On Tuesday Feb. 24, 2015, Gov. Chris Christie delivered his annual State of the Budget Address, which provided a summary of the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. This budget directly affects us as Ramapo College students, since Ramapo receives funding from the state. In this issue, we will focus on the implications of Christie’s address on Ramapo College.
To start, part of the State of the Budget Address discussed the unconstitutionality of the cut in pension funding from last year. Last year, to balance the budget, Christie cut a significant portion of money from the pension fund. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to continue to cut from that budget. Thus, Christie explained that he plans to add $1.3 billion to the pension fund. Unfortunately, the funding must come from another budget, and often this funding is pulled from the higher education. Higher education often receives budget cuts because the traditional college age demographic (from 18 to 24 years old) rarely goes out to vote. Since each politician hopes to be reelected and we rarely go out to vote, legislators do not have to worry about advocating for us.
As a result of this increase in costs, Christie's preliminary budget shows a 2.6 percent transfer from direct operating budgets to fringe benefits at colleges. While direct operating money can be used by the school to pay for services, salaries, capital projects and other unrestricted activities, fringe benefits are only used to fund increases in cost of living expenses for employees. This increase in cost is determined by the state, so this money does not pay for operating costs. Essentially, this is a 2.6 percent budget cut to our operating budgets. In addition to this transfer of funding, we also will experience an additional seven percent cut to the Direct Operating budget. Worse yet, two of the research institutions in the state have had their budget cut capped at three to four percent. Therefore, we will actually experience a greater than seven percent cut in budgets. More specifically, Ramapo may experience a $1.5 million cut in funding. Due to this large decline in funding, we may experience decreased services, as well as increased tuition.
What are your feelings on this budget cut? If you feel passionate about this concern, share your opinion with your political representative and make sure to vote in future elections. If you would like to register to vote or get involved, please come to the Student Government Association office in SC-223.