Budget troubles to continue into upcoming fiscal year

Published by adviser, Author: Kevin Squires - Assistant News Editor, Date: October 3, 2013
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The Council of Trustees voted to approve Slippery Rock University’s 2013-14 Educational and General Fund budget during their regular meeting held Sept. 27. The approved budget was balanced, remedying the previous $5.2 million deficit that was reported earlier in the semester.

Robert Taylor, newly elected chair of the council described the budget as ‘very difficult’.

“We reviewed a very difficult budget. It is not a pretty budget. It is not an easy budget to swallow and accept. There is pain in the budget. I think it as reasonable of a budget as we can expect to accept. It is a sensible budget,” Taylor said.

President Cheryl J. Norton emailed the campus community with an update regarding the budget Monday which had a reduced deficit of $4.7 million due to additionally received performance money.

“To address the remaining deficit, we will use approximately $1.1 million in reserves and implement nearly $3.6 million in personnel and non-personnel reductions submitted by the divisions. We expect to achieve the personnel reductions by not filling vacancies and natural attrition.” Norton explained.

With the current year’s budget approved, next year’s predicted deficit has already started being addressed.

“We will intensify our efforts to address the challenges of the fiscal year 2014-15 budget, which we predict at this time could result in a deficit between $10-$13 million.” Norton said.

Dr. Patrick Burkhart, president of the SRU chapter of the Association of State College and University Faculties, responded to the forthcoming budget in an email sent to the faculty Wednesday.

“It saddens me to report that SRU management made it apparent at a Meet and Discuss with State APSCUF Wednesday that, without substantial attrition, the institution will retrench faculty. Letters will be issued this academic year and dismissal will occur effective Fall term, 2014.” Burkhart said.

During her quarterly report to the Council, Norton excluded the topic of the budget as she stated it was already discussed thoroughly and chose to make the focus of the report as stating some of Slippery Rock’s latest accomplishments and looking forward to what the university has to offer in the future.

Norton cited some of the latest recognitions for Slippery Rock University as being named a Top 100 Regional University in the North by U.S. News and World Report, recognition from AffordableCollegesOnline.org for SRU’s return-on-investment, BestOnlineColleges.org citing SRU’s online special education program as one of the best in the nation, being named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, being named to the honor roll for exemplary community service by the Corporation for National and Community Service, ranking among the top 100 universities nationally on Sierra Magazine’s annual rankings of the nation’s greenest universities, being named one of the “Best in the Northeast” in The Princeton Review’s annual ratings, being named a “Military Friendly University” by G.I. Jobs magazine, being named a “Top Workplace” by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and being named a College of Distinction by Student Horizons Inc.

Norton also mentioned some of the new programming and focuses for the university.

“We’re looking at beginning a physician’s assistant program, a health care informatics program, a special education doctorate in autism, a three year undergraduate degree, and others,” she said. “We’ll be focusing on nontraditional students and what their needs are.”

“We’re also looking for international students,” Norton said, mentioning her upcoming trips with some of the deans and provost to China and Vietnam.

She ended her report asking for a moment of silence in honor and remembrance of Van Peterson, a former trustee who recently died, Frank Kohler, a 1985 SRU computer science graduate, killed in the recent shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard and Zachary Sheridan, a former Rock football team member who was shot and killed in Pittsburgh in Aug.

During public comments, Dr. Patrick Burkhart, president of the Slippery Rock University chapter of Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and Universities Faculties, spoke to the Council about moving forward and asking all of those listening to take his message to the Board of Governors.

“We cannot run this place on our good looks and charm alone. We need to enhance cash flow,” Burkhart said. “Return to the Board and Governors and ask for a 5 percent tuition increase next year.”

He advised, “SRU is strong, efficient and effective. Let us not contribute to our own demise.”

Burkhart also called for ending talk of “the perfect storm.”

“No one expects smooth sailing here. I implore you now to switch into the next phase of stewardship, one where we quietly concede our limitations and ponder our tactics. Let us stop speaking of ‘the perfect storm.’ For every salty hand knows not to whistle on board the ship, thus we call up a hostile wind. Let us continue to prep the ship with steady hands and a twinkle in our eye,” he said.

Other public comments included members of the 125 Celebration Committee who announced plans for the upcoming celebration of Slippery Rock University’s 125th anniversary being established.

Members explained to the Council some of the events planned for the celebration which include “Up Til 2 for SRU,” a letter writing event where students will get the word out about their time at SRU to everyone they know. This event will be Jan. 25 (1/25) starting at 1:25 p.m. and running until 1:25 a.m. the next morning. A birthday party is expected to be held by Green and White Society on March 23. A founder’s picnic, speaker series, performances, monthly lecture series, displays for homecoming, oral history of the university presentation, and other events are also being planned.

John Golden, director of SRU’s Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) and an instructor in SRU’s School of Business, and students involved in the SEA gave a presentation about what the accelerator program is and how it works.

Additionally, Student Government Association President Rogers “Buddy” Clements spoke about student involvement and leadership on campus.

John Hicks was recognized for his service to the Council. Hicks served on the Council from March 2007 – June 2013.

Grace Hawkins was also recognized for her service to the Council. Finally, Courtney Baker-Schroat, the former student trustee member was recognized by the new student trustee member, Laura Ordaz. President Norton presented those being recognized with a framed Slippery Rock display.

In addition to the budget, the Council also voted to approve the contracts, fixed assets and service and supply purchase orders reports presented, as well as the remaining meeting dates for the academic year. Jeff Smith was appointed as the representative to the Pennsylvania Association of Trustees.

A reception followed the meeting, honoring the former trustee members. The next meeting of the Council of Trustees will take place Dec. 12 – 13.

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