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DDN: Wright State may lay off as many as 40 more employees

Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

The FY 2019 budget calls for the university to add $3 million to its reserves, something which trustee C.D. Moore referred to as “the minimum.”  

“I think $3 million is low. I consider that a threshold. It is the minimum,” Moore said.

The hope is that the university will add even more to its reserves than $ 3 million, president Cheryl Schrader said. But, Schrader said the university needs to be careful it corrects its “financial ship” in the right way and at the “right pace.”

“We have to be very careful that we recover at our own pace and by that I mean we have to make sure that we are not just always cutting (but) that we are investing and continue to invest as much as we can,” Schrader said.

The university is trying to rebound from a budget crisis by adding at least $6 million to its reserve fund by June 30 to stay off of state fiscal watch. As of today, chief business officer Walt Branson said the university is expected to add around $7.2 million to its reserves, which could keep it off fiscal watch.

The state measures every public college’s fiscal health with something called a “Senate Bill 6 score,” an annual rating of 0 to 5.  Any school that falls below a 1.75 two years in a row is put on notice. Wright State projected its score last year was a .8, meaning one more year below a 1.75 would put the school on fiscal watch.

Under fiscal watch status, WSU trustees and administration would have to adopt a financial recovery plan with an eye toward ending the status of fiscal watch within three years, according to state law.

Wright State trustees have approved the FY 2019 budget by a vote of 7 to 1 with one board member not at today’s meeting.

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Trustees voted on the budget, which projects a $10 million decrease in revenue after, presentations from president Cheryl Schrader, chief business officer Walt Branson, a discussion and a brief question and answer session with the public.

The board is now headed into a closed-door executive session to discuss its ongoing contract negotiations with the Wright State faculty union and “pending court action,” according to a meeting agenda.

How each trustee voted on the FY 2019 budget

  • Doug Fecher: Yes
  • Sean Fitzpatrick: Yes
  • Grace Ramos: Yes
  • Stephanie Green: Yes
  • Bruce Langos: No
  • C.D. Moore: Yes
  • Michael Bridges: Yes
  • Anuj Goyal: Yes
  • Bill Montgomery: Absent

Wright State trustee Bruce Langos suggested that the university do something drastic to boost enrollment. He joked that one way the school could attract students is by providing a flat rate for an unlimited meal plan to students.

“Let's try to be disruptive with it. How can we shock the other universities that we compete with,” Langos said.

President Cheryl Schrader told Langos she appreciates his “disruptive ideas” and said the university is working with a company called Ruffalo Noel Levitz to develop new ways to boost enrollment. According to its website, the company “partners with colleges and nonprofit organizations to help them enroll their classes, graduate their students, and engage their donors.”

Schrader said the university is expecting some conservative results from working with the company this fall with more benefits coming later on. It’s important for Wright State not to get ahead of itself on the benefits of the partnership, Schrader said, “to make sure in the middle of next year that we aren't trying to chase some sort of loss in enrollments.”

Langos fired back at Schrader, criticizing the administration for hiring the company in the first place.

“In all fairness Cheryl, I don't need to pay a consultant to tell me what i just said,” Langos said.

Wright State University is again planning to lay off employees this year as part of budget cuts.

As many as 40 employees could be laid off, said WSU president Cheryl Schrader. That number could change though, depending on attrition, Schrader said.

“We would expect the actual notice numbers to be much less,” she said.

Around 47 employees were laid off last year after attrition was factored into the $30.8 million in budget cuts.

Another round of cuts prompted criticism from trustee Bruce Langos who is one of many Wright State leaders who have said the university cannot cut its way to prosperity. Growing revenue needs to be a bigger priority, Langos said.

“It is a recipe for disaster, we have to focus on turning ourselves around, not taking more cuts because its just not going to work,” Langos said about the FY 2019 budget proposal. “I’m so concerned about revenue.”

Enrollment is still expected to be a problem for Wright State next fall. It’s bad news for the financially troubled school as tuition and fee revenue is the largest single source of money for Wright State and most other colleges.

Overall Wright State’s revenue is expected to decline by around $10 million next year, with money from tuition and fees expected to make up the bulk of that decrease at a loss of around $8 million, according to the budget proposal.

Here are the projections for enrollment:

  • Main Campus
    6.5 percent overall decline in enrollment.
    32.4 percent decrease in out-of-state students (includes non-Ohio residents and international students.)
  • Lake Campus
    8 percent overall increase in enrollment.

The WSU administration is asking trustees to approve a new $25 career services fee per semester, said chief business officer Walt Branson.

The fee will be used to improve offerings from Wright State’s career center.

“This does not result in new net fee revenue for the university,” Branson said. “We’re required to have additional services that are required by these fees.”

Wright State trustees are listening to president Cheryl Schrader begin to present the fiscal year 2019 budget.

Wright State will not release its FY 2019 budget proposal to the general public until after today’s meeting, spokesman Seth Bauguess said.

Schrader called next year’s budget “a challenging one” as the school still has to add money to its reserve fund.

Schrader told trustees she believes the university will avoid fiscal watch. But, Schrader said that this year’s budget cannot function like previous ones as university went over budget by millions of dollars every year from 2012 to 2017.

“We have come a long way toward righting our financial ship,” Schrader said. “Of course there is still work to be done.”