As we work our way through the latest budget reductions, it is critical that we all understand exactly what our charge is. Currently, there are several activities and exercises underway dealing with budget cuts. They all have a deadline of Nov. 15, which adds to the confusion. I am writing today to clearly outline the parameters of each of those activities.
First, WSU is working on making two separate budget reductions. The first one is a 6.3 percent permanent cut in state funds. This reduction applies to the current fiscal year; hence, it is important that the reduction be implemented as soon as possible. Some progress has already been made in meeting this reduction, as a result of capturing vacant positions over the past year. The reduction we are addressing is a 6.1 percent, one-time cut in state funds, announced by the governor in mid-September.
In order to have as much flexibility as possible in making those cuts, the provost and president have asked each college to develop plans for a 10 percent permanent cut in state funds, as well as plans for an 8 percent one-time cut in state funds. By asking for plans much larger than the actual cut, the administration gives itself a broader set of choices to reduce the budget as strategically as possible. In other words, it provides the information needed to make different reductions in individual units and still reach the overall target.
I want to emphasize that, regardless of what you may have heard, there is no 18 percent permanent budget cut to the WSU budget. I am hopeful, in fact, that the real reduction to CAHNRS and WSU Extension will be less than the 6.3 percent and 6.1 percent being mandated by the state for WSU.
In addition to the budget reduction exercises mentioned above, the provost also has asked the colleges to develop a list of “big ideas.” These are ideas for major reorganization/consolidation of programs that result in substantive cost savings or opportunities to generate new revenue. Most of these “big ideas” are not actions that can be implemented quickly enough to significantly influence the budget reductions we currently face. The “big ideas” project is aimed at getting administrators, faculty and staff to think creatively about how we can change the way we do business to reflect the dramatic decrease in state funding.
As I said earlier, all of these plans are due to the central administration on Nov. 15. Thanks to your good work and that of the department chairs and directors, we have some impressive “big ideas” to submit. With the help of the newly constituted budget advisory committee for CAHNRS/Extension, we are developing the two budget reduction plans. Those plans will not be made public; they will be submitted to the president and provost, who will develop a final draft plan of their own to share in December.
The guiding principles for our reduction plans have not changed since last year.
- We will not use across-the-board cuts; they are not strategic and breed mediocrity throughout the organization.
- Productivity – both individual and at the unit level – will be an important factor in allocating budget reductions
- To the extent possible, we will minimize reductions to areas of strategic priorities. We have worked too hard and long to sacrifice these areas for short-term budget considerations.
- We are committed to retaining our high-quality junior faculty. They are the “seed corn” that represent our ability to build a future brighter than today.
Finally, I want to let you know that I will be providing budget reduction updates more regularly for the foreseeable future. Even when there is not much news to report, it is important that we keep everyone in the loop.