Despite reducing the 2017-18 budget shortfall from a projected $1.8 million to less than $500,000 as the result of campus-wide efforts to reduce spending, SUNY New Paltz faces a projected deficit of more than $5 million for the 2018-19 budget.
According to Vice President for Administration and Finance Michele Halstead, the campus has been operating with a budgeted structural deficit since 2015-16. Halstead said that revenues are simply not keeping pace with necessary increases in expenditure.
Major factors limiting revenue include no increases in direct state support since 2012, SUNY 2020 tuition subset in 2015-16, no tuition increases in 2016-17, smaller tuition increases in the past two fiscal years and declining graduate enrollments. Increases in expenditure include the addition of new buildings because of operation and maintenance costs, unfunded compliance mandates, inflation, minimum wage increases for student employees and the $4.5 million impact of negotiated salary increases this fiscal year alone.
On Oct. 19 in a forum addressing the college’s core operating budget, Halstead outlined the multi-year plan to balance the budget. For the current fiscal year, the college is focusing on mitigating expenditures.
According to Halstead, it is imperative to control personnel costs, comprising 85 percent of the core operating budget. Initiatives to control these costs include a 90-day hold on all positions that are vacated through attrition or retirement and a thorough assessment conducted by the Office for Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion to determine if replacement is critical before a position can be released for replacement search.
“Ultimately, some positions will not be refilled, thus providing recurring savings for the campus,” Halstead said. “Our longer term plan includes increasing revenue by building new programs to attract new students and increasing efforts to bring in more students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, while continuing to examine and reduce our expenditures.”
She added that for the current fiscal year, the college will need to use an unknown amount of the savings built up over past years to balance the budget. This amount will be determined in the spring.
“Budget planning is a routine activity on campus,” Halstead said. “We continually look at the fiscal landscape, assess needs and opportunities and plan accordingly. The steps we are taking now are not unlike steps we’ve taken in the past, particularly in 2008-09 and 2010-11, when the budget was particularly challenging.”
Halstead said that the campus has been successful in addressing budget deficits in the past. She noted that the school was able to use one-time, permanent measures to reduce last fiscal year’s $1.8 million defecit by $500,000 by the year’s end.
Goals for revenue increases include continued development of new academic programs, maintaining momentum in positive graduate recruitment trends and setting new targets for increasing undergraduate enrollment.
Additionally, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation is entering its first-ever capital campaign and while the philanthropic dollars it raises do not impact the core operating budget directly, they can provide scholarship dollars and endow faculty positions.
“While a $5 million deficit is certainly daunting, the campus has faced similar budget challenges in the past and navigated them successfully,” Halstead said. “The faculty, staff and administration are very responsive to challenging budgetary times.”