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Retirees Association

DDN: Wright State president: ‘Avoiding fiscal watch is by no means a certainty’

Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

Wright State University’s president emailed the campus Thursday saying that she is “cautiously optimistic” about the school’s chances at avoiding being put on state fiscal watch.

“While our financial progress has been outstanding, we still have critically low reserves, and avoiding fiscal watch is by no means a certainty,” president Cheryl Schrader wrote in her email. “We need to continue to be conservative, frugal, and anticipatory.”

Wright State currently projects it will add $7.2 million to its reserve fund by the close of the fiscal year on June 30. The university needed to add around $6 million to reserves to avoid being placed on fiscal watch by the state.

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, the 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 has spent more money than it generated every year since 2012. In fiscal year 2017, WSU overspent its budget by $24.6 million. In her email, Schrader praised the university for cutting an estimated $50 million in expenses since last year.

“As painful as some of that has been, it has been a necessary achievement. This year we have turned 180 degrees toward being fiscally responsible and accountable,” the president wrote.

Schrader’s email represents the latest outlook in a cascade of wide-ranging opinions WSU administrators and trustees have expressed about the school’s finances in recent weeks.

In April, chief business officer Walt Branson said he thought Wright State was unlikely to add $6 million to its reserve fund but most recently said he thought the university would more than achieve that goal.

Trustee Sean Fitzpatrick has said the university appeared to be “on trajectory” for fiscal watch while board of trustees chairman Doug Fecher has said he didn’t “know how hopeful to be at this point.”

The WSU board of trustees will consider a budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 at 8:30 a.m., June 8 in the student union’s apollo room.

A preliminary budget proposal calls for Wright State to add $3 million to its reserve fund next year. That amount, Schrader said, would be closer to $12 million if it weren’t for unexpected expenses stemming from health care, fee waivers and enrollment fluctuations.