The university’s Budget Council recently announced the allocation of funds for 2003-04 and 2004-05. The budget plan — which addresses a wide spectrum of issues including an Office of Undergraduate Education, research initiative funding, salary increases, health benefits support, and support of Internet services and utilities — was presented Nov. 12-13 at a Leadership Retreat at the Compton Union Building.
The effort was triggered last spring, when the Legislature cut WSU’s 2003-04 funding by $10.3 million, then allowed it to make up part of that loss through increases in student tuition. To offset the remainder of that cutback, WSU asked all departments in July to take a 3 percent ($6.17 million) budget cut. At that time it was announced that hearings would be held in the fall and that the budget would be set for the remainder of the biennium in November.
Most of the state budget cut was implemented in July 2003, while the offsetting tuition increases are effective in fall 2003 and 2004. As a result, the budget situation will improve in the second year of the biennium.
One of the highest priorities from the university’s strategic plan is to pay competitive salaries. In September, President V. Lane Rawlins announced that, in addition to the legislatively funded retention increase, WSU would fund a general salary increase averaging 2 percent for faculty, administrative and professional staff and graduate assistants. (State guidelines do not permit a similar increase for classified staff, who receive increases through a system based on longevity.)
The initial allocation plan set aside $3.4 million on an ongoing basis to pay for the salary increase and $5.6 million for other institutional commitments. As a result, only $1.4 million was available for additional allocation.
To increase the funds available for university priorities, WSU is taking several actions, including:
• Cutting tuition waivers to provide $1 million more for university programs.
• Reducing central reserves by $3.07 million, so more funds can be allocated to programs.
Also helping bolster the situation is a strong growth in grant activities and higher rates for facilities and administration (F&A) recoveries, as approved by the federal government. This is expected to create an additional $1.8 million in overhead funding.
“Our strategy is to provide additional funding to key initiatives that offer the maximum payoff in achieving our strategic plan goals,” said Karl Boehmke, executive budget director.
The four top criteria for providing allocations were: funding salary increases, improving undergraduate instruction, enhancing the research environment and improving graduate programs.
“Our highest priority was to provide a salary increase to employees,” said Rawlins.“We wanted to provide increases for classified staff, but state regulations would not allow it, so we were limited to faculty, administrative professionals and graduates.”
Here’s a brief overview of the budget plan:
• The 2 percent salary increases will begin Jan. 1, 2004, and cost $3.4 million over the biennium. The retention pool will cost an additional $1.8 million. Plus, a new $100,000 allocation is being made to support employee excellence awards.
• To enhance undergraduate programs, funding will be provided to establish the President’s Teaching Academy and the Office of Undergraduate Education. In addition, the provost will distribute Teaching and Learning grants, fund additional strategic cluster hires, and maintain a $1.3 million high enrollment pool to be allocated to colleges on an annual basis.
• Several research initiatives are being funded, including ones in biotechnology, bioinformatics and bioengineering. Beginning next fiscal year, 4 percent of F&A revenues from grants and contracts will be allocated through the Office of Research for equipment matching and faculty research initiatives.
• To address the serious problem of eroding health benefits for graduate assistants, an allocation of $367,000 is being made.
• Additional funding will be provided to support the infrastructure of the university. Increases of $3.4 million per year are required for the utility budget, while Internet service costs will require $200,000 annually.
“We need to keep in mind, that although this budget is tight and requires some sacrifice, we are still in control of our destiny,” Rawlins said. “By keeping our focus on our strategic goals and mission, we have designed a plan that allows us to advance some important initiatives during the second year of the biennium.
“Through this plan, we will continue to demonstrate to the Legislature and public that the money invested at Washington State University provides a powerful return for not only our students, but for the state and business community at large.”
A list of where the money is being allocated in 2003-04 and 2004-05 budgets is available at http://www.ir.wsu.edu/budget/docs/AllocationsWeb.pdf . A videostreamed recording of the Leadership Retreat budget presentation is available at http://experience.wsu.edu.