No-Frills Budget Allows Growth In Priority
Increased revenues from tuition, auxiliary enterprises, donor support, and research grants, combined with salary freezes and management of position vacancies, will allow some growth in targeted programs this year, despite a state appropriation that is millions of dollars below the University's current services needs.
But it's not going to be easy, University President Philip E. Austin told the Board of Trustees Tuesday, as they approved a $693 million budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year for Storrs-based programs, and a $550.8 million package for the Health Center. The budgets represent increases of 3.8 percent and 5 percent, respectively, compared to last year.
"Though we certainly would have preferred higher allocations (in the state appropriation), we appreciate our state's elected leaders' limiting the adverse impact on the University," Austin said. "We will continue to advocate for additional support, and continue to press our claim that an adequately funded state university is essential to Connecticut's long-term economic growth. For now, however, we must deal with the situation as it is.
"The magnitude of the economic challenges this University has encountered is daunting," he added. "We're facing a decrease in state dollars and the impact of the Early Retirement Incentive Program, concurrent with a substantial increase in enrollment. Nevertheless, we believe this plan continues the University on the right path."
UConn's state appropriation for the 2003-04 fiscal year actually reflected a small increase compared to last year. But when state officials announced that only 50 percent of the state-funded savings from the ERIP would be returned to the University, that represented a loss of another $7.1 million from the Storrs budget and more than $1 million from the Health Center's budget. As a result, both budgets face a decrease in state allotments this year.
Both Austin and Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer, praised faculty, professional staff, and managers for agreeing to wage freezes for the coming year.
"One of the most significant reasons we can get to a balanced budget is the wage freezes," said Aronson. "That got us more than half way to closing the gap we faced, given the drop in state support."
She said that despite the economic challenges, the trustees demand rightfully that the University continue to pursue its climb in the national rankings, and students and their parents expect, appropriately, that UConn will provide a high quality living and learning experience.
To that end, Aronson said increased funding was being directed to several areas that are considered priorities, including undergraduat e and graduate education, research, enrollment management, diversity, substance abuse prevention, financial aid, and athletics.
While troubling in the short term, Aronson says the retirement of nearly 500 faculty and staff University-wide also presents an opportunity to continue to focus on the institution's strengths, allowing for reallocation of resources to high priority programs.
"It's an extremely competitive environment here in Storrs and at the Health Center," she said. "And there's a strong expectation that we continue to use our resources in the most effective and efficient way, as the University fulfills its responsibilities to students, patients and the citizens of the state."
To that end, she said, administrators have restructured several departments, including Student Health Services, where summer service offerings have been realigned to reflect the fact that fewer students are on campus during that period. Also, some technical services areas supporting research have been restructured, and she and Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, the newly appointed chief operating officer, are exploring other areas with an eye toward efficiencies and greater sharing of services between the Storrs-based programs and the Health Center.
Aronson also said state appropriations were unlikely to increase dramatically in the future, and that UConn must continue to grow other revenue streams in order to enhance quality.
Austin told the trustees that the planning process to address future needs has already begun.
"We know that the measures now in place are not permanent solutions, and we continue to develop plans that will address our long-term needs.
"But this budget does maintain our academic excellence, provides support for an expansion of research across the University, sustains the quality of clinical care at the Health Center, and meets other compelling needs," Austin said. "This is a no-frills spending plan, but it will allow us to safeguard and enhance the University's programs."