Friday, January 11, 2008

Geosciences hit by state budget cuts

The Arizona Legislature proposes 10% cuts for the Arizona Geological Survey and the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources in the current budget, but no reductions for the State Mine Inspector, because his office deals with public safety. The governor proposes smaller cuts, but for all three agencies.

The Legislature also wants the cuts to affect the state's universities, something opposed by the governor. How the potential cuts would affect geoscience and related programs at the schools is unclear.

The Legislature wrapped up three days of hearings on the fiscal 2008 budget yesterday. AZGS and ADMMR were included in the lump sum agencies (ie, our budgets are each in single line items as opposed to multiple lines like the large agencies have). The 20 or so lump sum agencies were reviewed and disposed of in 15 minutes. Madan Singh, director of ADMMR, was allowed to make some brief comments, noting that 47% of his agency budget goes to rent of the Mining and Mineral Museum building and is fixed, so a 10% cut halfway through the year will disproportionately affect their staffing. He predicted the loss of 2 or even 3 of their 7 positions if the budget cut goes as proposed by the legislature.

AZGS plans on handling the cut by not filling vacant positions, reducing some operating expenses, and funding more administrative and support functions with indirect funds from external contracts. We have also returned to our university roots to a degree by using more students in a variety of positions - from staffing the front desk, to digitizing maps, web development, and field work. Today, about 25% of the AZGS total workforce is made up of students, both college and some high schoolers.

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