As part of my address to the campus community in October, I shared with you a broad overview of the budgetary challenges we face and previewed some of the steps that we will take together to rebalance our campuswide expenditures to match available resources. Today I am writing to provide an update on those efforts.
In short, numerous years of escalating expenses and declines in our overall enrollment, despite strong first-year enrollments, have continued to challenge our ability to maintain a balanced budget. These issues are not unique to Buffalo State, as colleges and universities across the state and country are facing similar budget scenarios. Fortunately, in recent years, our once-healthy cash reserves helped us weather this storm. But while we have made several adjustments to control spending, these measures have only marginally decreased our expenditures.
While we had some good news this past fall with a modest increase in our overall enrollment, the financial gains were also modest; therefore, we must still take significant steps to rebalance our budget and bring spending into alignment with available operating funds. With little hope for increased tax support on the horizon, we anticipate that the campus will soon have to absorb more than $5 million in costs related to negotiated salary increases, resulting in a structural budget deficit of more than $7 million.
Because of the significant planning that must occur to close a $7 million gap, and to ensure that we insulate our students as much as possible from the impact of the reduction in operating resources, we will work together over a three-year period to rebalance our resources to best meet current and future institutional priorities.
Following a careful analysis of how our instructional and administrative costs compare with those of our SUNY peer campuses, each of the college’s vice presidential areas has been assigned a one-year and three-year rebalancing goal to help close our overall gap. During this period, we will maintain a careful review of all hiring to maximize savings through attrition but will fill essential positions to support mission-critical needs and strategic rebalancing investments. Because we are already more than halfway through the 2017–2018 fiscal year, each vice president has already presented plans to the President’s Cabinet to address our collective reduction of $1.4 million in operating expenses this year. Two additional reductions of $2.8 million in operating funds must be achieved in both 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 to realize the $7 million total reduction.
To rise to this challenge, we need your help. During my fall 2016 opening address, I called on each of you to find new ways to contribute to student success and to recommit to our collective work of attracting, retaining, and graduating our wonderful students. Many of those efforts have taken shape and have had a positive impact, but if we are to close the gap, we need to do more. Providing an academically engaging, student-centered, and welcoming environment is critical to improving our retention rate, which in turn is a significant factor in achieving a balanced budget. I ask each of you to find ways to contribute to our recruitment, retention, and completion efforts.
Later this month, the Budget Committee Support Group, which was appointed in November, will hold a series of open meetings to share information about the current rebalancing of the budget and why it is necessary. During those meetings, I encourage you to share your comments or ideas for addressing the difficult task at hand.
This budget rebalancing website has been constructed to keep members of the campus community informed about this process. Please visit and monitor the page for updates and information, including a collection of frequently asked questions and answers.
Despite these challenges, I am confident that together we will continue to move forward and fulfill Buffalo State’s mission and commitment to excellence, engagement, and social responsibility. As an anchor institution for the city of Buffalo and the only urban-engaged campus in SUNY, we are a special college with a long and laudable legacy. That will not change. As always, I thank you for the many ways you support Buffalo State and our students.
Katherine S. Conway-Turner
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