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Forums seek to explain budget

On Monday and Tuesday, Ohio University held two budget forums, hosted by Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit and Vice President of Finance and Administration Stephen Golding. 

Members of the University community had the opportunity to learn more about the proposed budget from Benoit, Golding, Associate Provost for Academic Budget and Planning John Day and Associate Vice President for Finance and Planning and Deputy Treasurer Mike Angelini.

Each forum began with an overview presentation on the budget.

On Monday, Golding told the audience at the outset, “It’s important to point out that the governor’s budget was much more favorable to Ohio University than we had assumed in February.” 

He also noted that good fiscal stewardship in the form of conservative forecasting reduced the impact of the loss of federal stimulus on University programs.
The presentation provided information about how the estimated deficit of $9,639,980 was calculated and outlined ways in which reductions might be taken.

“We are trying to recognize that there are many strategies that could be employed by the planning units to save money, increase revenue and cut funds,” said Golding. “The units are encouraged to use the strategies that best fit their individual needs.”

After the presentations, each forum opened to a question and answer session with the audience. Those who were unable to attend Monday’s forum could watch it streamed online and submit questions via e-mail.

Ken Brown, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, asked why academic units were taking a larger cut than academic support units were in this budget scenario.

Golding and Benoit noted that the past practice of cutting academic support units at a higher level could not be sustained in this budget cycle without further erosion of the University’s ability to provide custodial services, pay bills in a timely fashion and assist employees and students with specialized services. 

Benoit also suggested that regardless of the level of cut, the reduction targets presented a challenge for every unit.

“I think the cuts are difficult for all of the units and I think we need to be careful when we talk about who has escaped because, quite frankly, no one was spared,” said Benoit.

Via e-mail Colleen Carow, director of external relations for the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, asked for a clarification of how the University is balancing the compensation increase with the salary increase.

Golding stated that when faced with rising health care costs, “The Benefits Advisory Committee thought it was in everyone’s best interest to deal with the problem by moving employee contributions up to 13 percent and by offsetting that by increasing total compensation.”

This is similar to how the University will work with a proposed parking fee for faculty and staff. The University will compensate employees for the proposed fee to offset the cost.

“The parking fee is still under deliberation,” said Golding. “If parking is truly an auxiliary, then it should be able to cover its own expenses without general fund support. This needs to be discussed and a determination made about how best to proceed.”

Other questions dealt with the possibility of a tuition increase.  

At both forums, Benoit indicated that the Ohio University Board of Trustees expected the budget to be balanced without relying on a tuition increase.  She noted that in light of the board’s directive, any tuition increase presented to the board for fiscal year 2012 would be used to make investments in critical strategic needs.

Benoit and Golding will present the board with the planning unit targets, the revised budget scenario, and additional multi-year budget projections in the April 21-22 Board of Trustees meeting.