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FAMU deals with budget cuts, athletics deficit and loss of revenue from band suspension

Florida A&M University is looking for ways to deal with legislative budget cuts and a deficit in its athletics program. Lynn Hatter reports the school is considering increasing tuition, and trying to find ways to deal with the expected loss of revenue from the absence of its main fall attraction: the band.

Lawmakers cut the budget of all public universities this year to close a state deficit. Florida A&M’s share of the cut is about $20 million dollars. To make up for it, the legislature built in the assumption that universities would raise tuition by 15-percent. However, FAMU Trustee Marjorie Turnbull says the school should consider a smaller hike due to the impact the increase could have on a students’ ability to pay.

“I have already said that a tax by any other name is still a tax. And we have chosen to raise tuition and fees on our students. What really is really a user tax on our students.”

The update on the school’s budget came Wednesday during the first of a two-day meeting of university trustees. The group was also updated on the state of FAMU’s athletics program, which is running a million-dollar deficit in the current year.  Trustee Rufus Montgomery wanted to know how the school would handle the deficit.

“What will success look like one year from today or at our board meeting in next April in terms of your department, your budget and your stewardship of that?”

Suggestions for how to cut the athletics budget include eliminating some sports. But university officials say the deficit could get worse during the fall football season because the main driver of ticket sales—the Marching 100 band, remains on suspension following the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion in November.