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07 May Posted by in Business | Comments Off on Budgets

Our budget for the coming fiscal year just passed, with relatively little discussion compared to what might have been expected. Federal stimulus funds almost covered the additional state cut projected for fiscal year 2010, which in turn allowed a smaller than expected tuition increase, and almost everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The same framework will (unless there are further state cuts) probably describe the next budget year as well — no big growth, relatively modest tuition changes, with an open question about whether the state will undertake any salary moves. Amid less bad news than we had feared, and certainly with a need to pause in planning after a demanding year, it’s still a good idea to prepare for some predictable realities.

The big monster — again, assuming no big further cuts — is the ending of the federal funds two years hence, in budget year 2012. It’s prudent to say that we don’t expect state funding to rebound — it never did after the fiscal crisis earlier in the decade — but in fact (assuming some economic recovery by then) we actually need to work for the contrary, for without some efforts to restore part of the $15 million we’ve already been cut we will face serious difficulties. Unit budgets have been cut already by over 2.5% (an additional $4 million plus for next year alone), and while we have a bit of reserve this coming year, as a gesture of prudent foresight, there’s not a lot of margin. We all assume that we can’t revert to the kinds of 8-9% annual tuition increases that tided us through the middle years of the decade, given family economies, competition, and political concerns. We work toward new sources of revenue, and by 2012 a few ideas may pay off modestly. But it’s a challenging picture overall, and we’ll have to start thinking about it, at least in our budget committees, by June or July. But in the meantime we do have Commencement, the need for a break, maybe some summer weather sometime; and a bit of Scarlet O’Hara wouldn’t be a bad idea for a few weeks.