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Fiscal Update from Chancellor Cantor
Fiscal Update from Chancellor CantorFebruary 04, 2009SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Dear SU Campus Community Members,
Eric Spina and I have been meeting with the deans this past week, and colleagues around campus have asked about our progress in decisions for next year’s budget. Therefore, at this afternoon’s annual Senate Open Forum, I began with a few words about our continuing efforts at steering a fiscally responsible path for the University. Our goals in doing so continue to be to maintain our substantial academic momentum, meet the financial needs of our students, keep SU as a strong employer in the region and support our lowest paid employees, and preserve the quality of administrative and support units that enhance the academic mission. I thought it might be useful to share those comments with everyone, since I know that not all members of the SU community could attend the forum.
As we shape next year’s budget, the cost savings from the administrative and support units serve as a foundation to enable us to commit to these goals. Eric, Lou Marcoccia and I are now in the process, through discussions with the Senate Budget Committee, the RCM Committee, and the deans and the trustees, of deciding on the macro parameters (tuition, financial aid, salaries, endowment payout), and we will discuss those in more detail at our March 4th special Senate meeting. By necessity, with the volatile market conditions, we are doing more modeling than usual and pushing these decisions further out in the process. Nonetheless, I thought it would be useful to describe some of our goals and preliminary thinking in several key areas. Taking the four areas outlined above:
- Academic momentum: In our discussions with the deans, we focused on maintaining faculty searches, and in each case this can be done in part because we were able to reduce costs considerably for the schools and colleges next year as a result of the administrative and support unit reductions that I described in my January 7th letter to the campus. Another piece of sustaining academic momentum resides in our current faculty who are being promoted this year. We will make sure to reward them appropriately in their salary increases.
- Financial aid: Meeting the financial needs of our incoming and returning students is absolutely critical in our planning. We have a very strong and large application pool for next year. We are committed to keeping the tuition increase rate in a range well below what it has been for the last several decades or more, and we are processing financial aid requests as quickly as possible to get a better sense of how much financial aid we need to allocate.
- Employment stability: The decisions that we made recently to eliminate central administrative and support unit positions, including 48 layoffs, were not made lightly. While we believe that the separation packages were very supportive of these staff, we want to maintain our workforce going forward. Therefore, we do not plan any general personnel cuts in the schools and colleges as part of budget savings. The deans will be working with their departments and units to find non-personnel operational savings. This will not be easy, and so what we have proposed in our discussions with the Senate Budget and RCM Committees is to create the additional necessary savings by providing salary increases next year (by an average pool of 3%) only to those faculty and staff throughout the University earning below $50,000, with an exception for faculty receiving tenure or promotion.
- Staff salaries: We know that so many dedicated staff across campus will be doing more with less, either because of position eliminations in the administrative and support units, or operational cuts in the schools and colleges. While we must contain our salary budgets, we believe strongly that it is appropriate to raise the salaries of our lower paid staff and, of course, to maintain our commitments under our union contracts. We wish we could do more for all staff, but we want to balance our ability to keep our workforce and still try to support progress in wages for those least compensated, as all families face this uncertain economic environment.
Again, I should emphasize that intense budget discussions are still underway, and will continue for another month on the areas mentioned here. Still, I thought it would be useful to write about our key goals and some of the proposals for addressing our momentum, ensuring access for our students, and supporting our dedicated staff.