Administrators Plan to Allocate New Revenue

President Donald Christian speaks at the budget forum.

College administrators are beginning a new budget planning process for the 2012-13 year that will focus on investing revenues from increased tuition.

President Donald Christian and Vice President for Finance and Administration Jacqueline DiStefano said in a memo to faculty and staff that the new planning process will not be a “one off” effort focused on this specific tuition increase. Instead, Christian said this will be the start of a regularized process of using long-term planning and assessment information to guide resource allocation decisions each year.

After the passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY-SUNY 2020 plan and the statewide adoption of a five-year rational tuition plan across the system, the students at the college experienced tuition increases beginning this fall. Christian said administrators are estimating that SUNY New Paltz may have as much as $1.6 million of new revenue as a result.

At a forum on Feb. 23, the president said officials are looking forward to a budget process that does not involve filling in gaps created by a deficit.

“We are excited to start thinking about allocating new resources for our programs, in contrast to what we’ve been doing in the past several years,” he said.

Administrators said it was important that the campus community notes that there are still lingering uncertainties as to how the school’s budget will be impacted by decisions made on the state government level.

DiStefano said that while Cuomo has indicated that his Executive Budget Proposal will be “favorable to SUNY” in terms of funding to the agency, the Legislature may feel differently about funding this system of public higher education.

Christian said that while there is a general optimism that state officials will not be cutting SUNY’s budget as they have in recent years, those in the system cannot try to predict any the outcome of the legislative process.

“I wouldn’t bet a six pack of 7-UP on what the outcome of that will be,” he said.

Once funding for the system is decided on the state level, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said officials will implement a new allocation methodology for distributing funding to each campus.

DiStefano said this process, that may implement concepts like performance-based funding, is complex and it cannot be predicted how it will impact SUNY New Paltz.

“I spent two days in Albany last week and I left more confused than I was when I got there,” she said of her attempts to learn about this process.

On the campus-level, recommendations from the Middle States reaccreditation review are impacting the budget planning process for the upcoming year.

Administrators said department or unit assessment plans and results will now be expected to support requests for new funding. Christian said officials will also consider enrollment trends and respond to recent shortfalls in course availability in future budgetary decisions.

DiStefano said one of the first steps of the process involves faculty and staff filling out allocation request forms through to apply for funding for a new program, function or a initiative. These forms are due by March 9 and will be sent to each person’s immediate supervisor.

Requests will be processed in different rounds by higher ranking administrators throughout the semester.

“We are hoping this will kind of come up through our chain of command,” DiStefano said. “I will be the recipient of all of the requests and put them into a master list, and then we will take the show on the road in April to variety of constituent groups and get feedback.”

All requests will begin to be reviewed and summarized on April 2. At the same time, student advisory groups and others will be consulted about plans going forward.

Christian said, however, the 2012-13 budget plan will ultimately be finalized by administrators.

“Consultation does not mean we make decisions on a democratic basis,” he said. “But we encourage people to bring forth ideas to their department chairs and others.”

While the planning process for the next budget cycle has begun, Christian said the college is following through with the 2011-12 $6.3 million budget reduction plan. Christian said portions of the plan that still need to be implemented by this spring include cuts in the part-time personnel budget.