School Looking to Reduce Budget Deficit

SUNY New Paltz is still currently facing a $1.8 million dollar deficit in their 2017-18 budget. Vice President for Administration and Finance Michele Halstead remains confident that the issue will be resolved. Photo courtesy of Rachael Purtell.

 With a $1.8 million deficit in the 2017-18 budget, SUNY New Paltz is still seeking ways to reduce the deficit by looking for additional cost savings and revenues.

“The ‘17-18 initial budget reflected a $1.8 million deficit. This fall, tuition revenue realized by the campus exceeded expectations and the winter and spring terms are projected to meet or exceed expectations. The campus has also made significant progress in reducing anticipated expenditures,” said college spokeswoman Chrissie Williams.

The tuition revenue exceeding expectations is partially due to the increase in enrollment at the college. For the fall 2017 semester, the college had 6,733 undergraduate students and 832 graduate students. This included nearly 1,150 first-year students and more than 900 transfer students enrolling at the fall 2017 semester, which according to the universities website is one of the largest incoming undergraduate classes in their history. 

Despite the current deficit, Vice President for Administration and Finance Michele Halstead remains confident that the situation will be resolved.

“I see this current situation as no different than the difficult budgeting circumstances we’ve come across in the past,” Halstead said. “We have account managers that are very budget conscience and I have no doubt that they will get the job done.”

Halstead mentioned that the students and the faculty make up 85% of the college’s expenditures. One of the ways that the college is reducing its expenditures, according to Halstead, is by maintainig the policy which keeps a job position vacant for 90 days after an individual leaves the position.

“We are holding tight to our policy of delaying the rehiring of positions,” Halstead said. “Holding positions open for 90 days after someone leaves the job (through retirement, resignation or promotion) allows us to not only save funding through the salary savings, but it also allows us to take some time to re-evaluate the position. Is that position needed going forward, can we find efficiencies that would allow us to eliminate the position, or can we modify the position in some way?”

An example of the college facing a budget deficit in recent years would be during the 2016-17 fiscal year, where the college faced a $4 million deficit. The larger deficit was a result of increased expenditure needs; minimum wage increasing, for example, while revenue remained stagnant because SUNY tuition prices were not raised.

Halstead also reiterated that New York State is still negotiating with all the collective-bargaining units represented at the college with the exception being the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), as they reached an agreement with the state on a five-year contract in August 2017. 

“The college is not at the negotiating table with the state, the information we get is passed down to us from the unions,” Halstead said. 

Williams touched on how the negotiations with the state are still on going and how it will have an impact on the final fiscal numbers for the budget.

“The state has not yet concluded the negotiations with all collective bargaining units represented on campus. The outcomes of those negotiations will likely impact this fiscal year as well as future fiscal years. The magnitude of the impact will not be known until negotiations conclude at the state level.”