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New council bringing data, transparency into budget process

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To meet the goals of Washington State University’s 2020-2025 System-Wide Strategic Plan, a new group is developing a more transparent, effective and efficient means of allocating resources.

Members of the Executive Budget Council are building a comprehensive budgeting model, aiming for a framework that’s clearer in how funds are allocated and how costs are assessed in pursuit of achieving the system’s strategic goals and priorities.

“We’re looking to simplify the budget process in ways that help people and departments plan better, while making sure the WSU system is being efficient and effective with resources we have,” Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton, who co-chairs the council, said.

The council includes more than a dozen people representing campuses across the system, as well as faculty, staff and students.

Currently, the best means of predicting a department’s budget in the year to come is to look at last year’s budget, Stacy Pearson, vice president for finance and administration and Chilton’s co-chair, said. One major task of the council is to combine a discordant budgeting system into a single, more transparent process, where data is key to informing budget decisions.

“With Drive to 25 and our new WSU System strategic plan, we can align our budget model around the highest priorities and needs,” Pearson said. “The combination of this new evolving model with all funds budgeting and our new Workday system means we can provide tools to all campuses and departments to enable them to assess programmatic success and needs.

Being able to see more detailed data and follow the budget process through evaluation and decisions will provide greater transparency on how funds are allocated and what incentives can be introduced to grow programs, Pearson added. It also helps members of the WSU community understand the cost structure, revenue allocations and how to measure progress and success.

The Executive Budget Council is working with a consultant to better understand the budgeting process of peer institutions and to facilitate a deep dive into our current budget practices and values. From there, the council can take this knowledge and use it to craft a budget process that is appropriate for the WSU system.

Since becoming the committee’s faculty representative, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker has focused on hearing the perspectives of professors from across the system and working to address their priorities.

“Some of faculty’s top issues are making sure we have a budget model that favors the growth of programs and supports faculty development and retention, utilizing funds in a way that prioritizes students and academic programs and ensuring flexibility so that we can develop and grow innovative programs,” Barbosa-Leiker said.

In addition to her role as an associate professor in the College of Nursing, Barbosa-Leiker is also the vice chancellor for research at WSU Health Sciences Spokane.

“I’m honored to be serving in this role representing the faculty, and enjoy hearing from them and raising their concerns with my fellow committee members.”

A preliminary review documenting the council’s work so far and a series of recommendations moving forward is expected to be available for review May 1. More information on the Executive Budget Council is available on its website.

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