ASU president Gwendolyn Boyd says she ‘unequivocally did not’ agree to $10 million cut

ASU president Gwendolyn Boyd said Thursday she "unequivocally did not" agree to a cut in ASU funding.

ASU president Gwendolyn Boyd said Thursday she “unequivocally did not” agree to a cut in ASU funding.

The president of Alabama State University said in a statement Thursday that she “unequivocally did not agree” to a proposal to cut university funding nearly 26 percent, a move apparently initiated by the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee chair.

While Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, said Wednesday that he understood Boyd was “OK” with the proposal during a recent meeting, Boyd rejected that in her statement.

“In my meeting with Senator Pittman, he informed me there would be reductions across the board in the education budget,” the statement said. “At no time did he inform me there would be a $10 million cut to ASU’s budget.”

The proposed ETF budget would give Alabama State University $31.5 million in the 2015 fiscal year, a cut of $10.8 million over the current year’s $41.5 million and nearly 91 percent of the total cuts in state funding to Alabama’s colleges. The budget also includes a first-priority conditional of $10 million for the university, the release of which would be up to Gov. Robert Bentley.

Bentley said Wednesday he had not initiated the move and did not think it was appropriate. Boyd said in her statement that she was “grateful” for the governor’s support.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for ASU, increased his criticisms of the move Thursday and vowed to fight the Education Trust Fund budget if it came to the House floor with the cut in place.

“We have never asked for special treatment, but we absolutely demand fair treatment,” Knight said in a statement. “I urge reasonable minds on the Republican side of the aisle to prevail. For me this is personal. They will pass this budget in the House when they pry my cold, dead hands off of the microphone, as I will fight this injustice until the bitter end.”

Pittman, who said the idea was his, has said he believed the move would help Boyd make changes to the school, which is currently undergoing a forensic audit and faces allegations of waste and fiscal mismanagement. Pittman has said the ETF as passed out of Senate committee Wednesday was about $10 million lower than anticipated, and that he had expected the money to be released.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said prior to a debate on the ETF Wednesday that he “understood the theory” behind Pittman’s move, but said he had not spoken to ASU officials about it. Brewbaker said his final vote for the budget “depends on how that works out in the House and in conference.”

During the debate, Pittman said the appropriation “was not conditional in my mind” and that he had confidence in Boyd. He acknowledged there may have been a misunderstanding during their meeting, and said he looked forward to meeting with her again.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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