As you know, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continues to face a severe economic downturn. The projected shortfall for Worcester State Colleges 2010 operating budget is significant, amounting to $4.9 million from FY 2009 levels. Part of this reduction includes an additional college trust fund payment of fringe benefit costs; this reduction does not include any inflation factor added to the Colleges FY 2009 costs. In the current fiscal year, the College experienced a $1.6 million reduction to the operating budget, as of January 31, 2009. Although savings have been achieved to balance our current budget situation, they may not be sustainable to cover the projected shortfall for this July.
We all have been reading the daily news updates regarding the federal economic stimulus package. Worcester State College is watching these deliberations carefully and is committed to participating in any efforts that could further improve our economy and the education of our students. However, it would not be fiscally responsible to rely on these funds to help put our FY 2010 budget in balance. If these funds are allocated, they would be temporary in nature and likely be targeted to specific projects and initiatives, and not to address current shortfalls.
Despite these daunting challenges, we must continue to commit ourselves to the Colleges mission, Worcester State College is dedicated to offering high quality, affordable undergraduate and graduate academic programs and to promoting the lifelong intellectual growth, global awareness, and career opportunities of its students. Now more than ever, we must pull together as a community to identify the most strategic decisions we collectively can make to manage our budget challenge, making as minimal impact on our students as possible.
To do so, I am inviting everyone to participate in this process. I am requesting that each division form an advisory group to identify areas that could be examined for efficiencies and cost savings within their area. These ideas and suggestions need to be forwarded to me before March 16th for consideration and review by the ELT. The Board of Trustees will be informed of the work and suggestions of the advisory committees at their March 23rd meeting. The division vice presidents will provide additional information on the formation of their respective advisory groups.
At this time, everything is on the table for consideration in our efforts to achieve a balanced budget and meet the needs of our students. Here is a list of some of strategies that have been examined so far:
- Cost containment and centralization of budget lines across the college.
- Evaluation of typical spending patterns and significantly reduce, if not temporarily eliminate, discretionary spending, while maintaining essential cost items.
- Maintain the frozen status of various positions across all divisions; at this time, there are seven APA vacancies, one AFSCME vacancy, and five tenure track faculty vacancies.
- Use College reserves on a temporary basis for infrastructure re-investment. This will free up operating dollars that can be used for the day to day operational expenses of the College. (DHE performance measures require each college campus to spend 5% of tuition and fee related revenues on adaptation and renewal of infrastructure. In FY 2009 the budget for this was $2.5M.)
- An increase in student fees for 2009/2010 academic year will be considered.
- The Colleges current policy will be to avoid general lay off of benefitted employees in lieu of other measures mentioned above.
I know the task before us is not an easy one, but I am confident in the strength and expertise of this colleges faculty and staff. I look forward to your assistance as we face this challenge together.