University developing plan to prevent cuts in budget

Mai Hoang

Although Western administrators do not know if they will face a state budget cut this year, they are developing a plan that may prevent cuts in the university’s $193 million operating budget.

The Council on Postsecondary Education has asked all state universities to develop a plan this year to set aside 3 percent of their operating budgets to levee any state budget cuts.

Western will finish a plan this month that will allocate more than $2 million for a possible state budget shortfall, said Chief Financial Officer Ann Mead. She said the $2 million may come from unbudgeted tuition money brought in by the university’s growing enrollment.

“It’s possible that the tuition revenue resulting from enrollment growth may be the first source of funds,” she said. “(But) if you use that money to replace the state funds, you don’t have any money for enrollment growth.”

Western currently receives about $70 million of its budget from the state. The Board of Regents approved the new budget at its May meeting.

The university will also lose some maintenance and operations funding for Media and Technology Hall. How much Western will lose will be determined by when the building opens its doors for the first time. The earlier the building opens, the less the university will lose, Mead said.

“We’re hoping we don’t lose any ground on a timely opening,” she said. “We prefer that we keep (more of) the maintenance and operations funding.”

President Gary Ransdell said administrators have not heard from any state officials about future budget cuts.

He said if Western does not have to help fund a state budget cut, the unbudgeted tuition money would be used instead to hire additional faculty and create more class sections to counter rapid enrollment growth.

Western was unable to hire as many faculty as planned this year because a good portion of university funding was contributed to a 4 percent increase to the faculty and staff salary pool, Ransdell said.

But Ransdell said he was satisfied with the increase and the fact that the university was able to increase its contribution to faculty and staff insurance and gender equity funds.

“I am pleased we can make some progress when state funding is flat,” he said.

Mead said she remains confident that Western will not have to contribute a portion of its budget to a state budget cut.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the state’s revenue outlook will improve and that the administration will continue to hold steadfast in its support for postsecondary education,” she said. “Postsecondary education has been exempt from most of the recent budget reductions.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]