University budget planning underway for potential fiscal year 2025 challenges

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Campuses, college, and departments across the Washington State University system are preparing budget materials ahead of the 2025 fiscal year.

Budget hearings with the staff from Finance and Administration began on March 18, with leaders preparing to discuss the impacts of potential 1%, 3%, or 5% budget reductions as well as critical unit needs. Participants will include WSU President Kirk Schulz, Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton, Daryll DeWald, executive vice president for health sciences, Leslie Brunelli, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Faculty Regent Judi McDonald. Chris Jones, assistant vice president for budget and planning and Matt Skinner, deputy CFO and senior associate vice president for finance will staff the meetings.

While there are positives in regards to WSU’s financial health — particularly metrics closely monitored by financial institutions for debt ratings — there are significant challenges, Brunelli told members of the WSU Board of Regents on March 7. She indicated that managing the university’s working capital and forecasting financial performance to avoid structural budget deficits are critical. Brunelli also recently presented information on the university’s financial health to members of the WSU Faculty Senate.

Declining enrollment in recent years, coupled with rising costs and new financial commitments, means units and departments need to plan for potential reductions. A difference from recent years will be that reductions will not be made the same across the board.

“We want decisions to be made the closest they are to the academic unit, to the student, but then we have to be able to hold folks accountable,” Brunelli told regents.

During the board’s Finance and Administration committee meeting March 7, WSU President Kirk Schulz announced that a comprehensive review of the administrative structure is also being planned, which will include meaningful opportunities for input from faculty and staff from across the system. The goal of that review will not just be to cut costs, but to reinvest in areas that are important to the university for years to come, such as faculty positions and high-demand programs, as well as research and scholarly work.

Following March’s budget hearings, units and departments will spend much of April making decisions on their FY25 budgets, with Brunelli presenting an update on fiscal year 2024 to the Board of Regents on April 18. Budget documents will be prepared from May 1–24, with the board’s June 6 retreat being used to discuss the upcoming FY25 budgets and preparing for fiscal year 2026.

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