McDavis assures full transparency as stakeholders work on FY08 budget
ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 8, 2007) -- President Roderick McDavis, Provost Kathy Krendl, and Vice President of Finance and Administration William Decatur met with local reporters yesterday to answer questions about next year's budget. The administrators presented scenarios and assumptions, but stressed that the specifics necessary to turn around a projected $6 million to $11 million shortfall will come from an inclusive and transparent process.
The president answered questions about initial scenarios and projections, but emphasized throughout the briefing that they are just that -- initial.
McDavis has established the Budget Planning Council, a working and planning group with representatives from all university constituents including students, to identify priority-driven solutions driven by broad input from the university community.
Decatur explained that the state will not announce the fee cap for tuition increases until late spring and the state's budget will not be finalized until early summer. The BPC, whose work is already underway, is exploring three possible budget models built around tuition increases of 6 percent, 3 percent and 0 percent so that "we can be prepared to act" once the state budget information becomes clearer.
"Our planning started with 6 percent. We heard concerns in Columbus that inflation is not running at that rate," he said. But Decatur hopes that if the state's budget increase isn't adequate, the greater-than-inflation tuition cap would be permitted.
"We would very much like to increase tuition by 6 percent if allowed to do so," McDavis added.
Decatur stressed that the scenarios are not all inclusive; the BPC will be looking for ways to meet increased expenditure from this year's minimum wage hike and to cover investments in information technology. "Next year we've got to look at base money to fund that," he said of those areas.
One reason for the projected deficit, Krendl reiterated, is lower-than-expected retention and fewer transfer students. Krendl pointed to several initiatives under way to address those issues, such as boosting the university's tutoring program and identifying at-risk students at an early stage so they can take part in retention-boosting programs.
"We're going to work like the dickens between now and the end of this academic year to increase retention and transfers," McDavis said. "If we have any luck it will help our bottom line."
The administrators discussed how the budget situation will affect the $6 million from last year's realignments that had been earmarked to fund three key Vision OHIO areas -- faculty compensation, undergraduate education, and graduate education and research. Although McDavis said he intends to maintain the commitment to make those strategic investments, the BPC is exploring whether some of the pool could be tapped to ease the anticipated budget deficit next year.
"We don't want to back away from our strategic investments," McDavis emphasized. "We'll just have to be more creative in how we go about it."
Krendl said she plans to release $1 million in one-time funds from the Provost's budget for undergraduate education initiatives related to retention, recruitment and first-year experience this year and to invest in graduate education and research, although the exact amount is yet be determined.
"We have to take hold of our destiny and think more strategically about our initiatives," Krendl said.
Krendl also fielded questions about whether faculty compensation could remain a priority in the face of budget shortfalls. More than $1 million will be earmarked for this purpose in fiscal year 2008. She said the Faculty Compensation Task Force submitted a draft proposal for raising faculty salaries to align with those of peer institutions over the next five years. The BPC will examine the task force recommendations as part of the total budget picture.
"[Increasing faculty compensation] is something we need to do. We have fallen behind and we can't afford to do that," Krendl said. In response to whether the university could afford to also expand faculty numbers, another stated goal, Krendl said retaining current faculty will take precedence. Krendl says that will send a message to its faculty that it "values their work and rewards them appropriately."
Find details about next year's budget on Outlook at www.ohio.edu/outlook/06-07/February/319f-067.cfm.
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Written by Elizabeth Boyle
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