Wright State's chief business officer has given employees a glimpse of the school's financial picture and an explanation of steps the school has taken to prepare for possible state budget cuts.
Matthew Filipic, senior vice president for business and fiscal affairs, presented the budget overview to a packed room at the Student Union during a Feb. 22 event sponsored by Staff Council. Workers at the Lake Campus watched and listened via video link.
Filipic said Wright State needs to prepare for reduced state support because of a decline in state tax collections, an end to federal stimulus funding in June and a resistance to tax increases at the Statehouse.
Wright State has a current budget of $423 million. Of that, $281 million is for unrestricted use, meaning the university decides where it will be spent. The rest is either earmarked for certain operating costs or designated for research or other specific purposes. Filipic said Wright State has about $120 million in reserves.
Wright State will also continue to work aggressively to retire its $37.5 million debt, which is much lower than that of universities of similar size, he said.
In preparation for the expected reduction of state and federal funding, Wright State trimmed its budget by $11 million in 2010 and another $6 million in 2011. The school has also undertaken money-saving energy efficiency initiatives, revamped its purchasing system to get better deals, and made conservative estimates of enrollment increases to guard against overestimating tuition revenues.
In the meantime, the university is examining its options in the event of state budget cuts and is working with consultants on a possible new budget process. To keep university employees informed of budget developments, President David R. Hopkins and Provost Steven R. Angle have been meeting with units across campus and a special university webpage on the budget has been created.
I am using my weekly letter to share with you some thoughts on the upcoming state budget process and the challenges before us. I know you are aware that Governor Kasich and our state leaders are faced with a significant hole to fill in balancing our upcoming biennial budget. Due to a slower-than-hoped-for economic recovery, that hole is estimated to be $8 to $10 billion.
While rumors abound and the rhetoric will heat up as we move into spring, at this time we don't know the size of possible reductions (or the "nut to crack") for higher education and Wright State. More than ever, state leaders and citizens understand that higher education is a key component to growing prosperity in Ohio through our mission to produce, attract, and retain talent, as well as to spur innovation crucial to a global knowledge-based economy. Regardless, we will be asked to share in the sacrifices needed to balance the state budget. Governor Kasich will submit his initial budget recommendation on approximately March 15. At that time we will have a better idea of our fiscal challenge.
In order to keep you updated about the budget and our needed response, we will launch a "budget update" space on our university website. It will outline the budget process timeline, share articles being written statewide, address frequently asked questions, review the guiding principles we will follow to balance our budget, and provide a venue for each of you to provide thoughts and ideas. In addition, we will work through the spring with the Student Government Association, Staff Councils, and the Faculty Senate Budget Oversight Committee to generate the best ideas and approaches to balance our budget and continue the great momentum of Wright State.
With your help, our leadership team will craft a plan to help navigate these economic times to emerge stronger and in a better position to continue our quest for excellence. At Wright State, we have a long and honorable history of being good stewards, of working hard, of providing a high-quality learning environment, and of spending our money wisely. This fiscal discipline has served us well in the past and will support us through this economic challenge. What has guided us and will guide us now is our unwavering commitment to provide an affordable, high-quality education.
Today, I wanted to share with you our current status as we begin to move forward with our budget development. We hope to conclude with our annual campus budget presentation on May 26. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions. As we get more information from the state and our plan takes shape, we will keep you updated at our "budget update" website.
Even in this challenging time, we should all keep our focus on our core mission. Our decisions are not driven solely by our financial future. Our life's work is dedicated to opening minds to new ideas and creating new futures for the students entrusted to us. Now our efforts must include creating a new future for the university. How we respond to these challenges will be a lesson to our students in good citizenship. Let us teach them that our belief in education as the foundation of the future is a belief in them. They are our future.
All my best,
President David R. Hopkins