Office of the Chancellor

 

E-mail message to the Campus
March 12, 2003

REMARKS AND ESSAYS:
Budget planning process update

Colleagues:
Our budget planning processes continue along lines outlined in earlier messages to you. Specifically,
• The "5%" budget reduction exercises are nearing completion,
• The new strategic budgeting process will be reviewed by the Senate this week, and I am hopeful that we will be able to immediately put it in place,
• As described in that new process, we will be having budget hearings in two weeks to hear and to weigh the recommendations emerging from the "5% exercises,"
• And, we have received budget and position reduction targets that are based upon the budget plan put together by the Governor.
    The budget targets are, in round numbers, a reduction of $500,000 in the first year of the biennium and an additional $500,000 in the second year meaning we leave the biennium with a cumulative $1,000,000 reduction in our base budget. These reductions are on top of about $600,000 in unfunded items we have inherited through a variety of unfunded mandates and that we knew, whatever the budget picture, we would need to find ways to permanently budget. In addition and as a separate requirement, we will have to show, by this time next year, a reduction in 16.2 of GPR funded FTE. Again, these are the implications for UWGB of the Governor's budget and are not certain; they probably are, though, "best case."
    Reaching these budget requirements will be painful. However, I do believe we now have in place the processes to develop our budget in ways that are open, deliberative, and that draw upon the best thinking of all of us.
    Please allow me the opportunity to address several other, related matters. I have, in recent days, heard a variety of questions or concerns, and I will take just a moment to address them.
    Why across the board cuts? Several colleagues have asked me why we are going to be making our reductions "across the board." The simplest answer is that we are not going to do so. Indeed, in the budget planning principles and guidelines shared by Provost Hammersmith earlier, "no across the board cuts" was specifically listed as a basic criterion. I suspect the confusion arises from the "5% exercise." Yes, most units were asked to go through the same percentage reduction exercise (although some were asked to look at both 5% and 10% reductions). If the current "Governor's numbers" play out, the final reduction will be below 5%, and so the information generated by the 5%/10% exercise will allow, as intended, variation in percentage reductions we actually end up having to take. However the confusion arose, I am certain that reductions will not be identical across the board. But, unlike the mythical Lake Woebegone, not every cut can be, in this case, "below average." I also know from our review of budgets last year that it will not be possible to "hold harmless" (as we did last year for instruction) any specific budgets.
    What about size and quality? Our budgets will be reduced and this will affect our capacity to fully serve students. Continuing at current enrollment levels means quality will suffer. Protecting quality should be our first priority. So, are we going to be smaller? Here, we are following the path outlined in earlier messages. Basically, our enrollments are set before our budgets are known. Demand for a UWGB education is rapidly increasing, and we are filling earlier and earlier. We knew we would face at least a short-term problem of adjusting. We also knew we would, once the biennial budget is known (and, we are still quite a ways from really knowing what the budget will be), have the opportunity to analyze the situation and then adjust although an element of "catch up" would be involved. We, as a campus, will have to figure out what we want to do in terms of admissions for next spring and for the following fall. I do not know what our decisions should be. First, we need to know what the budget impacts finally end up being. Then, in my view, we have to decide whether the budget situation is short-term or longer term. If shorter-term, perhaps we can work through it. If longer-term, we cannot let quality slip. But, even in that scenario, we will have to weigh what further budgetary impacts are acceptable given that being smaller means yet further reduced budgets because of the tuition revenue that will be foregone. Finally, I will add the thought that enrollment adjustments, if that is the route we take, have to be planned over a period of years because our main "control" is on admission of first year students, and wild variations in the size of particular classes creates all sorts of disruptive problems in matching class availability to student needs. So, there is much to weigh here. My commitment is that we will work through this together; indeed, I see these evaluations as being a critical part of the initial responsibilities of the newly forming Strategic Budgeting Committee.
    As a concluding note, I will add that I know, from having the privilege of being able to talk to a number of you who are in the "front lines" serving our mission, of your dedication to helping protect our capacity to serve that mission. You see the issue as involving more than simply finding dollars. You are thinking in creative and innovative ways in order to serve students and their needs. I am not being Pollyannaish here or suggesting that we can do more or even the same with less. We cannot. But, I admire and encourage your continuing professional dedication to why we are here and why we are proud to be here.


Thank you,
Bruce

 

 

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