Regents still looking for ways to trim budget
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The state Board of Regents is still searching for ways to trim the university system budget, but Chairman Stephen Barrett said tuition increases aren't being considered. "To no one's surprise here, it's going to be a more tight and difficult year than we expected," Barrett said Thursday, the first of two days the regents were meeting in Helena. Gov. Brian Schweitzer last week asked state agencies to find ways to cut their budgets by 5 percent in 2011, if necessary. That amounts to $7.5 million for a university system that is also losing $18 million in one-time federal funds used to shore up the base budget for the current biennium. The regents will present possible budget cuts to the governor's office by the end of the month, but if reductions are necessary, they likely wouldn't occur until July. The board approved seeking a $5 million federal earmark for the University of Montana to partner with a Massachusetts natural gas company to study the feasibility of using biomass to make a natural gas substitute. The board also gave UM the authority to build a $600,000 Maintenance shop. No state money would be used. The regents are asking the universities and colleges to help create a priority list for building projects. The governor's office is looking for Montanans interested in serving on the Board of Regents. Lila Taylor's term expires Feb. 1, but she will serve until a replacement is found. The Busby rancher and former state legislator was appointed to the board by Gov. Judy Martz in 2003.