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Columbia Missourian

Anyone with $62 million out there?

By Tom Warhover
December 12, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

We all should shudder at the prospect of a 25 percent reduction in state revenue to the UM System.

As the Missourian reported Thursday, that adds up to as much as $100 million over the four-campus system, according to the system’s president.

Columbia was never recession-proof, but the town earned the moniker from the large number of government employees.  Now, according to the folks with digitized ledger sheets, state income is drying up.

The trickle down effect could be torrential.

Consider: Four of the top five Columbia employers, according to Regional Economic Development Inc. figures, rely on our tax dollars to stay open.

The biggest is MU. Its more than 8,000 employees account for twice as many as the next business on the REDI list – University Hospital and Clinics.

My paycheck comes from the university. (I’m grateful to have it, too.) Even if yours doesn’t, the likelihood is pretty good that MU affects you. Think of the six degrees of separation game, in which you know someone who knows someone who … well, you get the idea.

Bet you get there from your livelihood in no more than three.

Here’s a little quiz for you:

MU receives $249 million from the state, according to the MU budget office.  Let’s assume 25 percent is whacked. That’s $62.3 million. You could turn off some lights and buy fewer pencils, but keep in mind that 74 percent of the budget is in salaries and benefits – higher education (all education, for that matter) runs on people.

Finding the dough is the task set before the administrative folks at MU, due Dec. 18.

Chancellor Brady Deaton sent out a call for ideas in an e-mail on Thursday. I would do the same; it’s not as if you’re going to find millions just lying around.

His e-mail was to the MU community, but I bet he wouldn’t mind if anyone else had a good idea or two.

We all have a dog in this hunt.