Western administration adapts to $2 million shortfall

Institutional News

With budget cuts raining down from the state of Missouri, Western administrators have had to accommodate the fiscal 2010 budget for a $2 million shortfall.

The proposed 5.2 percent cut from the state appropriations proposed to universities in exchange for a pledge of not increasing tuition leaves Western with $1.2 million dollars less from the state Department of Higher Education. Western also has to make up for an $800,000 mandatory expense increase. These expenses include increased health insurance costs and utility costs.

Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration Melvin Klinkner, who is also the chair of the Budget Advisory Committee, has been charged with closing the shortfall.

“It’s a difficult period of time for the university,” Klinker said. “The difficulty is worse in my opinion because we’re growing.”

Aside from the state’s cut to Missouri Western’s lean budget, Western and other Missouri universities also have their tuitions frozen by a deal cut by Governor Jay Nixon. The deal promises university presidents that if the institutions do not increase tuition costs for undergraduate students, then the state will not cut their budget more than 5.2 percent.

Unable to recover the lost revenue to tuition has forced Western to cut from the budget limiting the growth possibilities for the future.

“You just can’t run a university without raising tuition at some point,” Klinkner said. “Especially when you’re cutting the state appropriation part of it.”

With Western’s main sources of income frozen and cut, the administration and the Budget Advisory Committee have saved money by cutting from Western’s budget and attempting to increase revenue in other places.

The university has cut the operating budget of all departments across campus by 20 percent, a policy that will hold into next year. Other cuts include eliminating faculty sabbaticals and awards. Students will also endure increased class sizes as some non-essential faculty positions remain empty and new teachers are not hired.
President of Missouri Western Robert Vartabedian understands the risks involved in cutting the budget back and limiting Western’s growth.

“Specific vacancies whether they are faculty we are taking them on a case by case basis,” Vartabedian said. “If they can be justified in discussions in cabinet, usually, then we are pursing them and filling them but if not we’re not filling them and hopefully we can save a fair amount of money from doing that.”

To generate revenue Western has proposed to raise the tuition on graduate and out of state students, which is not affected by Senate Bill 389 or Governor Nixon’s Deal. Future increases in revenue include creating general fees for certain programs at Western including nursing, education, business, and engineering and technology programs.

Even these adjustments to the budget may not be enough because of a $720 million decline in state revenue. The Senate has been charged with cutting even more from the state budget. Governor Jay Nixon has proposed that the further cuts come from eliminating private schools from the Missouri Access Scholarships.

Brian Cronk, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, is currently serving on the Budget Advisory Committee.

“It’s a little up in the air still,” Cronk said, “The legislature could cut more money from our budget.”

The Missouri Senate’s final proposal is due May 7. If the Senate cuts the budget further then the university will have the ability to raise undergraduate tuition by 2.7 percent.

“That still not enough to cover it,” Klinker said. ”The best case scenario is that if they are going to be cutting us that we would be able to raise tuition to the level we are being cut, then be able to still do the inflationary increase.”

The 2011-2012 fiscal year may not yield improvement for Western with larger cuts from the state being discussed in Jefferson City.

“For what we’re anticipating in cuts [for this year] we have it covered,” Vartabedian said. “Beyond next year we may have to resort to zero-base budgeting.”

This would include starting budgets from scratch and looking at what is essential rather than cutting what is not needed.

“It’s a tough climate,” Vartabedian said. “One of the disadvantages that no other state has, that I’m aware of, is that our hands are tied.”

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