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DDN: WSU will put a long-term financial plan in place for the first time

Fall on campus

Excerpt from the Dayton Daily News

Wright State University officials are starting to prepare two financial forecasts for the school: one that assumes revenue keeps declining and another that predicts an increase in the coming years.

The best - and worst-case scenario projections would be routine for a finance department at any company or organization. But it might actually be the first time Wright State has tried to put together such forecasts, John Shipley, interim associate vice president in the WSU controller’s office, said during a Friday board of trustees finance committee meeting.

“Frankly there’s never been long-range budget planning,” he said. “There’s nothing in place, so we’re starting from scratch.”

Wright State is aiming to develop an annual three-year financial forecast to better estimate how the university’s revenue and expenses will look like a few years out so that trustees and administrators can plan accordingly, said WSU chief business officer Walt Branson. The university typically only puts together a one-year forecast.

The longer projections may help Wright State avoid some of the pitfalls that placed the school in its current budget crisis, officials said.

Wright State trustees slashed more than $30 million from the school’s fiscal year 2018 budget in June 2017 in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending. Those cuts ended up not being enough, and by the close of FY 2018, Wright State had reduced spending by around $53 million.

One of the biggest financial surprises Wright State faced in FY 2018 was unexpected health care costs. About $5.5 million in surprise costs popped up in February, as claims at the time were increasing or decreasing by as much as $500,000 in a single week, according to the university.

Those costs have since trended down, and Branson said he now believes the university has them under control. The number of high-cost claims are down and fewer people on Wright State’s insurance are visiting the emergency room for minor illnesses such as colds or the flu, Shari Mickey-Boggs, WSU associate vice president of human resources, said Friday.

In June, trustees approved a FY 2019 budget that predicted another $10 million decline in revenue. Those projections have already undershot revenue declines, as bigger-than- anticipated drops in enrollment led tuition and fee revenue coming in $2.1 million under budget for fall semester.

The university plans to cover that shortfall either with the $10 million it added to reserves last year or with vacant positions, Branson said.

“This year’s budget,” Branson said. “We’ve got it under control, plus or minus a little here and there.”