President Donald P. Christian, Vice President for Administration & Finance Michele Halstead and Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Lyman led a virtual Budget Forum on Thursday, Oct. 15, focusing on how the College’s revenue and expenditures have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, the College had an initial deficit of about $2.9 million going into the 2019-20 fiscal year, as well as a comprehensive plan to reduce that figure. However, coronavirus brought with it a decrease in state tax payer support, which coupled with a tuition shortfall created a $4.4 million deficit in the core operating budget.
The decision in mid-spring 2020 to send students home, spurred by the pandemic, led directly to the issuance of about $9.7 million in refunds to students, primarily driven by refunds for room and board.
About $7 million of those refunds are classified as “campus funds,” which, when added to the existing shortfall of $4.4 million in the core operating fund, resulted in an overall reduction of roughly $11.4 million in the College’s all-funds cash balances.
The presentation moved onto the current fiscal year and the College’s revenue and expenses at present. Halstead reported that fall 2020 enrollment is down only slightly from previous years, and much less than at other institutions in New York and throughout the country. Revenue from student fees tied to enrollment is also down slightly.
Residence hall occupancy is down about 50% from a typical semester. However, SUNY has refinanced the debt service on residence halls, meaning that annual payments of about $11 million will not need to be made this year or next.
It is unclear at this time what we can expect in state support for the year ahead.
Given uncertainty around the present and future revenue picture, measures to reduce expenses will continue for the foreseeable future. These include hiring freezes, bans on state-sponsored employee travel, the careful management of printing, and other restrictions on non-essential spending. Additionally, as previously announced, negotiated salary increases have been postponed until Jan. 1, 2021.
Halstead closed the presentation by affirming that she and other campus administrators remain focused on controlling what is in our power to control, planning for contingencies we cannot control, and relying on a transparent, consultative model for making budget decisions.
After the prepared remarks, campus leadership took many questions from the more than 300 students, faculty and staff in attendance.
Community members who were unable to attend the Oct. 15 Budget Forum may view the PowerPoint presentation and the Webex recording by logging onto my.newpaltz.edu and finding it via the “Budget Information Center” link.
As an additional resource, the Office of Administration & Finance has published a glossary of terms to help students, faculty and staff better understand some common jargon used to distinguish between different aspects of the College’s finances.