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NMMI plans for fall budget and cadets’ return

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Lisa Dunlap Photo The New Mexico Military Institute is in good financial shape, says its chief financial officer, but the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus situation could affect fall enrollment.

The New Mexico Military Institute has made its initial budget plans expecting cadets back on campus and a decrease in revenues of about $2 million.

The NMMI Board of Regents approved the initial fiscal year 2020-21 budget at a May 21 meeting, according to a draft of the minutes.

No tuition increases or employee layoffs are anticipated at this time, said Col. Judy Scharmer, chief financial officer.

She explained that the Institute was instructed to prepare a budget for the review of the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration using current legislative appropriations, but with the understanding that a special legislative session now planned for June to address the state deficit of about $2 billion likely will entail budgetary changes for all of the state’s higher education institutions.

“I do not believe that it (the budget) should have any financial impact to the parents or the cadets. We are continuing to maintain our tuition and fees that we had previously set up for the ‘20-21 year,” said Scharmer. “The bottom line is that, luckily, we are entering into this new fiscal year financially strong and stable. We had built up our reserves just to be able to address something that came up, and who would have ever thought it would be a pandemic?”

She said the Institute is planning for most of its cadets to report to campus for in-person instruction in the fall. For those who can prove that official travel restrictions prevent them from coming to the campus, the Institute is offering discounted online tuition rates.

Scharmer said that at this time, the Institute has reduced its projected revenues by $2.2 million. It expects $1 million less in tuition and fees due to an estimated 10% enrollment decrease, which Scharmer thinks is a result of people’s unease and uncertainty about the coronavirus situation.

“We are hoping, as the world or as the nation and our state open up, families feel more confident that we are going to reopen up in the fall,” she said. “At NMMI, we are very committed to figuring out a way to get these students back on Post to be able to continue as we have 129 years before.”

Another $1 million decrease is due to an expected decline in distributions received from the state land grant permanent funds and state land sales, while $200,000 in revenue decreases have been projected because no public fees are being collected for the public use of the Godfrey Athletic Center, which houses a pool, squash courts, a gym and a fitness area.

Right now, the Institute’s reserves are $8 million, so a portion of those will cover the deficit, Scharmer said. In addition, cost-cutting measures will be implemented, such as a salary increase freeze, a temporary hiring freeze and deferment of minor capital projects.

Other expenses are expected to increase, such as those related to COVID-19 prevention measures. That includes purchasing face coverings for cadets and employees, installing hand-sanitizer stations in classrooms and putting up plexiglass for some areas that serve NMMI constituents or the public. The Institute is also paying for the return of some laptops provided to this year’s cadets if they are not enrolling for the upcoming year.

Details about capital projects expected to continue were not available by press time. According to the draft of the minutes, the projects include continued renovations of Cahoon Hall, which holds a basketball court and other athletic rooms, as well as some offices; upgrades to some of the dormitory bathrooms; a renovation of the JRT Hall; additional equipment for the Bronco Challenge obstacle course; and the upgrade of electrical systems throughout the campus, which involves a contract that guarantees energy cost savings to pay for the project.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.