The presidents of two of the three state universities said Thursday they already intend to seek more money from students this coming school year.
What remains to be decided only is how much ‑ and in what way.
The comments came as all three presidents detailed for lawmakers what they are doing to deal with the $141 million in cuts they had to take in the latest budget adjustment. That includes plans to require employees to take time off without pay.
The chances of any of those cuts being restored next year are virtually nil. That's because the anticipated deficit, even assuming the $570 million in cuts this year are not restored, totals about $2.4 billion.
That means the universities will get even less taxpayer money next school year.
Northern Arizona University President John Haeger said he already anticipates offering fewer courses in the fall, with larger classes. Haeger also said all staff will be required to take at least seven days without pay, the equivalent of a 2.7 percent pay cut.
Even with that, there will be layoffs. And even with that, Haeger added, the NAU budget won't balance.
"We will go back to the Arizona Board of Regents ... (and) ask for significant tuition and fee increases,'' he said.
University of Arizona President Robert Shelton said he, too, intends to seek permission from the regents to hike the costs for students. That is on top of other moves to balance next year's budget, including requiring employees to take five days off without pay.
But Shelton, who convinced the regents in December to approve a $545 hike in tuition, said he doesn't plan to boost that. Instead, he told Capitol Media Services that students will face higher fees.
Those fees, however, will not be the traditional fees for things like health services.
"It would be a fee tied to what the state did not fund,'' Shelton explained.
For example, he said, all students may be charged a set amount to maintain the university's library system. And Shelton said there also could be a specific fee to pay the university's utility bills.
Hiking fees instead of tuition also means more students would pay: The plan approved in December by the regents guaranteed that returning students would not see their tuition increase by more than 5 percent a year. That cap, however, does not cover fees.
The presidents' comments came as lawmakers were told by staffers that they may need to make further cuts in the current budget to keep it from going in the red.
Preliminary figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee show that tax collections for January are running more than 21 percent below the same period last year. And that 2008 figure was 14 percent less than the prior year.
Richard Stavneak, the committee's staff director, said that could put the just-enacted fix to this year's $1.6 billion deficit $425 million short.
Stavneak stressed he was not making that an official projection, at least not yet. But Stavneak also said, even if the revenue declines for the rest of the year are not as steep, total tax collections still could wind up $250 million less than expenses.
Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, called the new figures "pretty alarming.'' Pearce, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that may show that lawmakers should have slashed more when they revised the budget less than two weeks ago.
A big part of the problem remains ‑ that consumers are not consuming ‑ at least not big-ticket taxable items.
The January figures represent taxes collected in December. Most retailers reported a disappointing Christmas shopping season.
Income tax collections also were down. That includes not just the withholding from employee paychecks, an indicator of how many people are working and what they are getting paid, but also the quarterly estimated tax payments due from people who are self-employed.