Budget Update 3/1/2011

Colleagues and Students:

We write to ensure that the entire campus community has the most current information about the impact of the Governor’s proposed budget on New Paltz finances, and to provide an update on the process initiated in the fall to develop a plan to reduce our base core instructional budget to match anticipated revenue. This is an anxious time of uncertainty for our community and we hope that this communication and our forums provide a better understanding of the challenges we face, and the critical need for our community to come together and to find cost-savings that will enable us to preserve as many jobs as possible and to maintain the quality educational experience for students that we are so well known for.

The Governor’s proposed budget to take effect July 1, 2011 for SUNY represents a net reduction of 10% in state taxpayer support for the SUNY State-operated campuses, and does not include a tuition increase. While several sources of uncertainty prevent an accurate estimate of what this means for New Paltz, our best current estimate is that the proposed executive budget will effectively reduce our revenue by an additional $3.1M. This is beyond the shortfall that we knew in December to be $3.2M, resulting in a plan that we must address a reduction of $6.3M in our core instructional budget. Recall that at our December 8, 2010 forum we discussed a preliminary plan to reduce our budget by $2.3M, which means that that we have a further task of reducing our spending plan by about $4.0M. Despite the uncertainties, there is no question that we must make a further, significant reduction in our budget for 2011-12 and beyond. We will do so by continuing the process established in the fall semester and underway since then.

As this process continues this semester, we focus our efforts on enhancing and refining the initial $2.3M reduction plan, and reviewing further budget suggestions generated by the campus community that are consistent with the published criteria, ground rules, and constraints. We will enhance elements of the plan outlined in December in several ways:

  • possible additional reductions in utility allocations; increased savings from stricter insistence on delays in filling vacancies;
  • further shifts of expenses from state support to other revenue streams, as appropriate;
  • consideration of a hiring freeze;
  • although likely to have minor impact, reduced supplies/materials (other than personnel services) allocations;
  • specific consideration of revenue-generating suggestions that show promise of immediate impact, while continuing to develop those that represent longer-term opportunities.

Given the magnitude of the cuts that must be addressed, the Vice Presidents and Deans have been asked to focus further effort on proposals to balance our economy by identifying possible ways to:

  • consolidate academic units and duplicative and/or redundant support services;
  • increase teaching loads for regular faculty;
  • increase class and section sizes.

To the extent that we can achieve reductions in our planned expenditures by all of these means, we reduce the extent of the cuts that we all most want to avoid – phasing out services and programs and losing colleagues, although we are necessarily evaluating these options. But significant reduction in adjunct faculty expenditures will almost certainly be an outcome.

We reiterate points that we have been making all year. Because we lost $3.2 million in revenue at the beginning of the 10-11 academic year without yet reducing our expenses, we have been using cash balances (reserves) to support programs and personnel this year. Any scenario that we envision for next year will require considerable but careful and strategic use of such funds. But to make no reduction decisions and merely “spend reserves” would be an irresponsible path and would leave the College in considerable fiscal peril in the future, particularly with so many indications that New York and other states face several more years of economic difficulties.

We recognize that the discussions over the next 6-7 weeks will be difficult and trying, and hope that we can all sustain the spirit of community that has been apparent to both of us as we have interacted with you about these difficult matters. We will continue to apprise you of our process as best we can, knowing that we must honor confidentiality and safeguard personnel information. We are planning another forum with students in the near future, and will host another faculty/staff forum later this month. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit the College “Budget Update” Web site for a wealth of background information, media coverage, budget data, and other resources. You also may find it valuable to revisit the State of the College Address and monthly Interim President’s Reports to the Faculty that provide perspective on the budget situation as it has evolved over the year. These are available at www.newpaltz.edu/president.

We hope that members of the College community recognize that, in our roles that require us to make budgetary decisions, we must adhere to a principle that we cannot spend money we do not have. We must plan a budget that has the College living within its means, next year and in the future. Although there surely is and will remain considerable disagreement about how our budget shortfall is resolved, we hope that we come together in the understanding about the core of the issue: reduced and insufficient state funding for SUNY. Now is the time to advocate with legislators and the governor for a rational tuition policy and related support that would provide New Paltz and other SUNY campuses with sufficient resources to fulfill our educational and public mission at the level of quality that our students and the State deserve. Resources that may be useful to you if you consider such advocacy may be found at www.supportnewpaltz.com.

Cordially,

Jacqueline DiStefano, Vice President for Administration and Finance

Donald Christian, Interim President

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