Office of the Chancellor

 

E-mail message to the Campus
Friday, January 24, 2003

REMARKS AND ESSAYS:
Update on budget shortfall


Colleagues
The newspapers continue to report on the State’s very serious fiscal situation. And, we all are anxious to know how our university will be affected. I have promised to keep you informed. I repeat that commitment: you will learn about UWGB’s situation from us, not from the newspapers.
   Our problem, to this point, is that we know nothing about the Governor’s budget plans as they concern the UW System. We do not know what might happen to tuition, either. Not yet even an informal hint from the Governor’s Office. I confirmed these points as recently as yesterday in a conversation with President Lyall.
   We do have a firm date on when the Governor’s budget will be available: February 18th. That, of course, will just be a starting point as both houses of the legislature must act, those two houses must reconcile any differences in their approaches, and that reconciliation must then be accepted or modified by the Governor.
   The February 18th date is consistent with budget strategies outlined in an earlier e-mail to you (available at http://www.uwgb.edu/chancellor/remarks/email2.htm).
   So, have we just been sitting and waiting? Not at all. We have been engaged in a variety of activities. First, we have been working within the UW System on determining the fairest formula for allocating budget reductions among campuses once the overall reductions are known. This is not a straightforward matter and the tendency toward across-the-board cuts really works to the disadvantage of a smaller campus like UWGB. (Relatively speaking, a much higher proportion of our costs are “fixed,” and we have been arguing that cuts should be distributed in proportion to “variable” rather than to “total” budgets. We are making some progress here.)
   We are also responding to a UW System directive to report on what a 5% reduction would mean. Again, the rules for allocating such a cut have not been finalized. But, as an exercise, the System did use across-the-board reductions proportional to total budget. That is a reduction of $1.1M for UWGB. Our response is at a very high level of generality: so many sections not taught, so many students not served, so many positions not filed, .... Until there is more than an abstract exercise to deal with, it makes no sense to be specific. It makes no political sense, in my experience, because if we put specifics out there then the response from those in Madison trying to balance the budget will be, "thank you very much for that help; now lets talk about what the rest of your cut is going to be." It makes no organizational sense because significant pain and grief is caused, perhaps unnecessarily, and programs can be permanently damaged just by mention in such exercises.
   What happens when it is no longer an "exercise"? We have been working with the Faculty Senate’s Budget and Planning Committee on an inclusive strategic budgeting process. We have a document that attempts to capture ideas coming from those discussions, and we are seeking wider involvement in critiquing and improving upon the initial thoughts.
   Also by way of preparation, the two Vice Chancellors are initiating conversations in their areas about the principles that should guide budgeting. Those discussions will lead, must lead, to broad and full scrutiny, criticism, and improvement.
   The foregoing all applies to preparing budgets for the next biennium. The year we are currently in also faces a shortfall (even after the “budget repair bill” passed last spring and the disproportionate cut to the UW System contained in that action). The Governor has announced restrictions affecting out-of-state travel, hiring, advertising, and capital construction. We expect, in the next few days, to receive more specific guidance from System. We will, as that is received, do our best to provide you with the best information we can on how UWGB needs to respond to these new limitations. We most certainly will be asked to return some of the budget already allocated for the current year. Again, we have no idea yet as to how much. We have been protecting institutional capacity to respond to such a request on short notice while minimizing disruption to ongoing commitments.
   Perhaps our biggest challenge at times like this is to stay focused upon our primary mission and where we intend to be, long term, as a University. Your patience, support, and involvement are appreciated.

Bruce

 

 

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