Wright State plans to trim budget

Wright State University officials plan to cut $19 million from the school’s budget over the next two years.

WSU board finance committee chairman Doug Fecher said Monday that the budget shortfall is the result of the state cutting higher education funding while freezing university tuition. Decreasing enrollment, due in part to an improving economy, also had an effect on the upcoming budgets.

“In the Great Recession when people lost their jobs in this community a lot of them went to school … and as things got better they left school, causing enrollment to drop,” said Fecher, who also is CEO of Wright-Patt Credit Union.

The university’s annual operating budget is $311 million this year. WSU has 3,803 employees.

Fecher said there has been no discussion about raising student fees to meet the gap, and the university’s goal is to make any staff cuts through attrition, not layoffs.

“It’s not indiscriminate cuts. It’s not just cutting across the board,” he said. “It’s taking a look and seeing what are the smart ways to cut, cutting in a way that does not harm people at the university.”

WSU President David Hopkins, in a campus-wide email last week, said the plan is to cut 4 percent of the university’s budget next year and 2 percent the year after to meet the shortfall.

“At the beginning of fall 2015, it was clear with the mandated zero percent tuition increase for FY16 and FY17, projected flat SSI (state) support, modest enrollment growth, and a sporadic economy, that we, once again, had a ‘Nut to Crack’ in our base budget,” Hopkins wrote, noting they faced a similar challenge in 2010.

The WSU branch of the American Association of University Professors released a scathing criticism of the proposed cuts. The AAUP advocated tamping down on administrative bloat, and questioned the financial impact of recent controversies and hosting a presidential debate as the school has run into the red for three years.

“Three consecutive years of negative operating cash flows is prima facie evidence that the administration is incompetent and that the Board of Trustees has abdicated its fiduciary responsibility,” said an open letter to the board from AAUP-WSU president Marty Kich.

Of the $311 million in the current budget, $213.6 million is being spent on salaries & wages and benefits.

Next year’s projected budget of $298.6 million will be nearly identical to budgets in fiscal years 2014 and 2011.

The Ohio Auditor of State this month released its annual audit of Wright State and Wright State Applied Research Corporation. The audits noted no financial irregularities, but state officials say they are still reviewing the university’s payments to an outside consultant with whom they had no contract in 2014.

University administrators plan to propose specific cuts — and strategies to replenish their financial reserves — in June for the board to approve before the next fiscal year begins in July.

“As we have done before, we will keep our focus on our core mission and our unwavering commitment to provide an affordable, high-quality education for those with potential and the drive to succeed,” Hopkins’ letter concludes.

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