March 18, 2011
» Budget Criteria 2010-11 *
» Budget Process 2010-11 *
» Ground Rules & Constraints 2010-11 *
In the spirit of previous communications, we write to provide an update on the latest news from Albany and implications for our budget shortfall, including insights gained during a SUNY Presidents’ conference call with the Chancellor earlier this week. The NYS Senate and Assembly passed their separate budget resolutions; these now go to conference as the next step towards a state budget. Both bills restore a portion of the SUNY teaching hospital subsidies (a source of deep concern for the overall SUNY budget) and about one-half of the governor’s proposed cut to community colleges. Neither bill restores any funding for our state-operated campuses (such as New Paltz) or includes a tuition increase (the Senate bill would allow the Trustees to increase out-of-state tuition, but this has minimal implications for our revenue). Both bills include (with different terms) support for procurement relief, and there is some legislative support for actions that would avoid tuition “sweeps” in the future. But it is unclear whether any or all of these provisions will end up in the final budget, which must be approved by both the Legislative and Executive branches of state government.
We will continue our advocacy for a rational tuition policy and other gains for SUNY system, at the same time we recognize some of the political realities and the harsh economic context for this year’s budget process. For example, some of the strongest legislative supporters for tuition relief have signaled “no increase this year,” consistent with the Governor’s proposal. Some legislative officials have reacted more to our messages about budgetary impacts on employment and the regional economy than those about educational impacts. Alumni responses to our calls for advocacy and support have been more muted than in 2009; some who have lost jobs or experienced other consequences of a down economy have responded unsympathetically that SUNY should expect to do its part to cut back in a difficult economic environment.
The bottom line is that, although the final state budget may be weeks away and the outcome uncertain, the legislative resolutions and the state’s fiscal and political realities are not encouraging and it is doubtful we will see significant (if any) budgetary relief. Our commitment to the fiscal health of the College means that we must continue planning to reduce the College’s base budget by $6.3 million, and begin implementing this plan on July 1 of this year. This reduction follows on the heels of a $6 million reduction beginning in 2008-09, and it is almost certain that our fiscal challenge will continue into the foreseeable future.
Cabinet and the Wonk group, including deans, continue to develop a budget-reduction plan drawing on ideas put forward by the College community. Some elements of the plan are solidified (savings from early retirements and other vacancies, reduced allocation for energy, many efficiencies gained from consolidating and reorganizing services), while others are still under exploration and development. The ideas being considered are complex and diverse, and avoid simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions.
Throughout this difficult time, we admire your hard work and unwavering commitment to the College and our students; the positive spirit that we see every day will be essential as we adjust to managing with a severely reduced budget. Two additional key points need to be recognized: cumulative cuts of the magnitude we face demand that we make significant changes in the ways we conduct our collective work; and, sustaining our quality and continuing to enhance our reputation are in significant ways under our collective control, despite budgetary constraints.
Our challenge as a community is to continue serious efforts to “re-think New Paltz” and the paradigms under which we work. We must engage in the conversations to define and develop these paradigms. And we must identify the essential support and approaches to assist faculty and staff in adapting to new ways of doing our work. These changes will result in our being a different institution, and doing things differently than we have. We cannot thrive in this economic climate otherwise.
We know that these are anxious and uncertain times for the entire New Paltz community, and we will continue our efforts to inform you of budget developments at state, SUNY, and campus levels. We appreciate your patience with this process. The need remains critical for us to work together as a community to finalize and implement a reduced spending plan while maintaining the highest-quality educational experience possible for our students.
Donald P. Christian, Interim President
Jacqueline DiStefano, Vice President for Administration and Finance