President Christopher C. Dahl and Vice President for Administration and Finance Kenneth H. Levison last week mapped out plans for the campus to address the severe SUNY budget cuts Gov. David Paterson has made to help plug a multi-billion dollar state deficit.
At an all-college meeting Dec. 1, Dahl emphasized the importance of being transparent in addressing measures Geneseo must take to help mitigate the budget predicament. He praised faculty, staff and students whom he said "always rise to the occasion in difficult times to maintain the essential quality of the college."
SUNY began the year facing a daunting $314 million cut in state tax support, which translated to a $2.85 million cut at Geneseo. SUNY campuses had hoped that a mid-year tuition increase would help close the gap, but the governor "swept" 80 percent of the increase to cover shortfalls in other areas of the state budget. That left campuses without any substantial additional revenues to cover the reductions in state support.
The initial cuts in state funding, coupled with reallocations to support campus initiatives, created a budget gap of $3.7 million. To close that gap, the college reduced personnel funding by four percent by leaving positions vacant and enacting a hiring freeze. In addition, funds for other-than-personnel-services (OTPS)— supplies, equipment, etc. — were reduced 13 percent across the board; OTPS funds for academic departments ($944,000) and utility costs ($826,100) were paid with cash reserves instead of state funding.
With the state potentially running out of cash to pay bills by the end of December, the governor squeezed another $90 million from SUNY in October, of which $890,200 came from Geneseo. This latest cut pushed Geneseo's funding gap for the year to $4.6 million.
To cover the additional $890,200 cut, the college has reduced funding for student temporary services by $74,500 and further reduced OTPS funds using a combination of cash reserves and additional department cuts.
"Instead of making across-the-board OTPS cuts to address this latest state reduction, we distributed the additional cuts based on a department's actual 2008-09 expenditures," said Levison.
Levison warns, however, that the latest $890,200 cut annualizes next year to become about $1,612,430.
The best-case scenario for the 2010-11 budget, said Levison, is another $1 million reduction, assuming that negotiated salary increases are covered and a two percent tuition increase contained in the SUNY Board of Trustees budget request for 2010-11 is fully retained.
"This budget situation is as bad as I've seen in 30 years," said Levison, "but we are trying to maintain structured ways of dealing with the cuts. The college will be permanently eliminating 17 non-instructional positions currently vacant or anticipated to become vacant by year's end. We also have instituted a new phased retirement program for faculty."
The college has relied on using cash reserve funds to meet the challenge presented by the reductions in state funding but Levison emphasizes that "even though Geneseo's reserve funds are at a higher level than other comparable SUNY colleges, these reserves will likely be exhausted during the next two years and cannot be considered a permanent solution."
For that reason, Dahl emphasized the critical importance of the college's Six Big Ideas initiative in planning for the future.
"The work these committees are doing will provide valuable guidance in protecting the college's academic quality as we face this uncertain financial environment," he said.
BUDGET Q & A
President Christopher C. Dahl and Vice President for Administration and Finance Kenneth H. Levison answered several questions during the all-college meeting. Here is a sampling:
This special edition of ENCompass focuses on President Christopher C. Dahl's all-college session to discuss state budget cuts and challenges, held Dec. 1.
December 9, 2009In this week's issue:
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