The state budget office notified department heads this week that an alarming drop in anticipated tax revenue could lead to deep cuts in programs and services, including the Montana University System.

Associate Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said on Wednesday that just as the State Library could take a $6 million hit, resulting in possible job losses, a similar amount could be cut from the university system budget.

"In a worst-case scenario, it could be a loss of as much as $6 million," McRae said. "The impact for state agencies that are 100 percent funded by the state will be most affected, however, since the university system receives about 40 percent of it's budget from the state and about 60 percent from tuition and fees, it won't be such a shock to the university system, which has a $200 million budget."

When asked if tuition would have to increased to cover the shortfall, McRae said not at this time.

"It could be, but we can't say for certain that it would have to be," he said. "The Board of Regents has just established the tuition rates for the next two years, so there is a slim possibility that the board could revisit tuition rates next year, but since they have already been set, there would probably be a corresponding cuts in educational services."

The University of Montana has already offered early retirement packages to faculty over the age of 65 in an effort to save money on staffing, but less than a third have expressed any interest in the offer.

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