Facing what remains an impossibly broad range of estimated budget cuts from the state in the coming biennium, Washington State University President Elson S. Floyd told the Faculty Senate Thursday that legislative delays in developing a definitive state budget pose a challenge to WSU’s efforts to develop its budget collaboratively.
Very few bills relating to higher education have been finalized by the Legislature, he said, and it appears unlikely that either chamber will complete its work by the scheduled April 24 adjournment date.
“Our conversations with members of the House and Senate have indicated that Washington State University faces a cut in the range of $85 million to $125 million for the upcoming biennium,” Floyd said. “That vast range of estimates, even if reliable, is too large to allow us to make definitive budget decisions at this time.”
While the university is committed to addressing the budget challenge through a collaborative process of shared governance with WSU faculty, Floyd said the task is made more challenging because it is unlikely the university will see more definitive state budget numbers until well after classes have been dismissed for the summer.
“It would be irresponsible to go through our budgeting process using estimates which may or may not be final numbers,” Floyd said. “To reach a workable budget in a collaborative fashion, it is imperative that we have the facts in hand well before the end of the academic year, at which time most students and many faculty members will leave their campuses for the summer.”
To effectively address the delay in the budgeting process, Floyd offered a working timeline that will push back what he called “the heavy lifting” on finalizing program impacts from budget reductions until early August, allowing the Faculty Senate, students and other vested parties an opportunity to participate when they return for classes in the fall.
“If the final approved biennial budget includes any specifically mandated reductions, we will implement them immediately at the start of the fiscal year, July 1,” he said. “The remaining share of the budget cuts will be considered in accordance with our shared governance.”
Under Floyd’s timeline, a universitywide budget reduction plan would be developed by academic and support area leadership during June and July. Proposed plans for any necessary academic program eliminations would be presented to the Faculty Senate prior to Aug. 18. Then proposed budget plans would be presented to the broader university community for review and comment. Final fiscal year 2012 operating budgets would be distributed to each area by October.
In responding to questions, Floyd indicated a willingness to continue to work on budgeting issues with faculty representatives during the summer months, but said no such meetings had been included in his proposed timeline.
“I’m more than willing to engage in further discussions after the end of the semester,” he said. “But I did not want to propose a schedule of meetings with faculty at a time when many faculty are not here.”
Floyd also told the Faculty Senate that he has received far less comment from the university community about WSU’s budget challenges than he has received about recent incidents related to intercollegiate athletics and local police.
“I have scheduled a meeting with the mayor, the city manager and others to sit down and talk about the relationship between the Pullman Police Department and the institution,” he said. “I have also asked Dean (Douglas) Epperson of the College of Liberal Arts to arrange a study of arrest records to see if there are any particular trends.
“We look forward to the data and will get to the bottom of this issue, but in a very collaborative way,” Floyd said.