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University of North Texas Faces Budget Problem

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
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DENTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - The University of North Texas is dealing with a multi-year budget problem.

A university spokesperson says it does not appear that the shortfall will directly impact student services and academic experiences. But some people on campus are worried about what the trickle-down effect could be of the financial issues.

Dr. Masood Raja, Associate Professor of English, moved to UNT from Kent State University in Ohio three years ago, because of the future outlook for the Denton university.

“That’s the reason I left a tenured job and moved here, because of where the university is headed,” Raja said.

Dr. Raja says there is word spreading among his peers that the school is facing a financial challenge.

“I’m not privy to the minute details of the university budget, but the faculty is talking about it,” Dr. Raja said.

Raja is referring to a meeting last fall, where he says faculty learned the school’s library system would have to make $1.7 million in cuts.

The associate professor and some students immediately started a “Save the UNT Library” campaign and petition. Thousands joined the cause.

“If our library doesn’t have a level of quality… it will affect our students’ and faculty’s ability to do their research. That’s the immediate effect,” Raja said.

Through a spokesperson, the provost for UNT says the library will not suffer because of budgetary problems.

The statement read: “UNT has every intention and a mechanism in place to hold the university’s library system harmless from the current-year budget challenge.”

But Raja is concerned that financial issues do not end there.

“That there’s a larger budgetary issue and the library is just a part of that,” Raja said.

Deborah Leliaert, Vice President for University Relations, Communications and Marketing, says she cannot speculate on the depth of the budgetary problems facing the school.

“We are aggressively getting to the bottom of the issue and are taking appropriate corrective actions. In addition to our internal team, we have brought in external resources to support a review of our financial controls and processes. We are working to put new finance controls and tools in place to enhance the management effectiveness of our budgeting and accounting operations,” Leliaert said.

“It was brought to the attention of our auditors. The UNT System audit team brought in external resources to support their review of the university’s financial and budget operations,” Leliaert said.

Three people who worked in finance for UNT System institutions have resigned, Leliaert confirms.

The school has a new President in Neal Smatresk. Leliaert says Smatresk is working to aggressively correct the current-year budget issues at UNT.

That includes making a multi-million dollar upgrade to financial computing tools and enhancing the management effectiveness and oversight of our accounting operations.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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