Budget teams to review efficiency

At the June 1 Board of Regents meeting, President Randy Dunn announced there would be an evaluation of the budget and a reallocation of funds. The budget planning and review teams will have the purpose of going throughout the entire University to reallocate, cut, save money and reduce expenditures.

Dunn said the teams have been established and will begin their work in the next week.

“What we’re trying to do on the front end administratively is provide enough structure to their work that each team is clear on the purpose, that there is a general understanding of the metrics for review, that they know how to access information — that we have a clearing house for information — and that we can ensure the tools they need to undertake these reviews, they have,” he said.

He said at that point, the teams are on their own to work through the areas for review that they choose, to gather data, apply their metric analysis and at the end of about six to seven months, come up with recommendations for potential cost savings reallocations and increased efficiency.

He said he was trying to find the right approach, because he wants there to be a common framework, some agreed-upon metrics and overall general approach that’s shared.

He said even though there needs to be a common framework, the teams have to be able to investigate and pursue areas as they see fit, without him dictating to them what they should be doing.

“For me to provide to many limits defeats the purpose of having these teams that have some authority to really get in and investigate these things,” Dunn said.

Tom Denton, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said the budget planning and review teams have been established in order to combat the loss of state appropriations.

The University will be using $1.9 million of reserves for the current academic year. He said administrators and the Board want these reserves used one time, hence the creation of the teams.

The amount being used to cover state appropriated budget cuts, which make up part of the $3.2 million deficit, doesn’t deplete the University’s reserves. Denton said the reserves are being used as a cushion, but the University deals with each cut on a permanent basis.

He said because of the large cut, it was necessary to come up with a way to evaluate the University’s expenses. The reduction in funds led the Board to accept the creation and usage of the budget planning and review teams.

“When cuts happen, they are usually not as substantial,” he said. “The reason for the teams is because we want to really take some time to look over our expenses and see what we can change. There isn’t a set formula we go by, we have to examine each situation as it comes.”

Denton said the teams will carry out their purpose and the cost reallocations or revenue enhancement, will take place in the fiscal year of 2013-14.

Information gathered from the administration indicates there will be three nonacademic teams and on the academic side, there will be one for each college. 12 teams in total will be responsible for finding a solution to the $1,892,166 deficit.

The budget planning and review teams will be comprised of members from each constituent body on campus, including students.

“At this time there aren’t University-wide cuts being planned,” Denton said. “Also, I don’t think there is a set amount that any one college or unit will have to cut.”

He said it might seem like there are more academic units than non-academic, but each team will be doing the same job.

Bonnie Higginson, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the budget planning and review teams’ purpose would be to evaluate everything.

She said examples of items that could be addressed, could include student services the University offers, how money is spent to support faculty travel and events the University hosts.

“On the academic side it is hard for me to think there are areas that could take many more cuts,” she said. “The academic side is pretty lean already.”

Higginson said there would be many changes to come.

“Will cuts be severe? I hope not. Will they have a negative impact on students and on learning? I really hope not,” she said. “I don’t believe cuts will be too severe. I think President Dunn is determined to protect the learning and teaching environment we have here, because that’s why we are here.”

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Services, said the teams would have a crucial task.

“You’re not going to make everyone happy,” he said. “Everybody is okay with budget cuts and they all agree it should occur, until the teams start looking at their areas.”

He said the University has cut across the board as much as possible and now the teams must go even deeper. He said it would be a difficult task because everything the University does is important.

President Dunn said there was not an absolute threshold that the team was required to meet, he said the administration is asking for the teams to go through the process, and send forward recommendations, which the Board of Regents can consider.

The Board will discuss the proposals during their spring meeting as they do the FY-14 budget.

He said it is incumbent on the administration from a management standpoint as well as being good stewards to the taxpayers and tuition payers, to every few years go through this process

“Were not doing this to create some mystery list of cuts where we’re going to axe people,” he said. “Rather, we do this to engage on a pretty organized, comprehensive process where we review the priorities that drive the money we spend.”

Dunn said he and the Board want to take a more reflective, thoughtful approach so they don’t make bad decisions that harms the University.

Said Dunn: “Once you cut something out, it’s very difficult to get it back.”

 Story by Chris Wilcox, News Editor.