SUNY New Paltz will continue to have to focus its efforts and tighten its belt in the 2011-2012 school year, but hopefully the darkest days of the Great Recession are now behind them, college President Donald Christian said last week. A struggling economy forced the local branch of the State University of New York to craft a budget that made multi-million-dollar cuts. “These forces demand that we continue to refine our focus,” Christian said.
Recently, the university has cut $5 million of the $6.3 million it needed to when faced with a large budget deficit last year. The plan to keep cutting and break even is on track. “We intend to complete that plan,” the president added.
Part of the recovery from the budget gap has to do with the tuition increases this year and in the next four. Like this year, the tuition will go up by $300 each year until the end of that period, which would result in $1.8 million in new revenue for the college.
Christian also told the SUNY New Paltz College Council members that renovations were on schedule, outside of some work still needed at the Old Main’s Studley Theatre. The college’s master plan has also shown that “we have less non-residential space per student than any other SUNY campus.”
College officials hope that the master plan’s finding will help SUNY New Paltz to win some state aid for building something new in 2013.
One thing that took almost everyone in the region by surprise also brought some hardship to campus. Tropical Storm Irene ended up causing about $1 million in damage on campus. President Christian mentioned that the college had done repairs by dipping into their reserves, but added “this is a serious hit on our reserves.”
Campus crew and faculty were able to snap some amazing pictures during the storm — a double glass entry door with water more on the window above the door handle, shots of kayakers paddling through campus.
SUNY New Paltz also put out feelers to find 15 new faculty members, who will join the teaching ranks in fall 2012. Despite a decline nationally in students interested in sciences and engineering, SUNY New Paltz is making progress there, the president said.
“We’re moving along and planning a new science building,” Christian said, adding that quite a few of those new professors they’re looking for are in the science and engineering fields.
Throughout the state, the State University of New York System could definitely do a better job of working together. President Christian used the example of travel expenses — if a provost, vice president or president of a SUNY branch incurs traveling expenses for work, it is processed at the university system’s central headquarters. It takes both time and money — about $70 for each travel expense request.
Christian said he saw a lot of opportunities for the SUNY branches to work more efficiently and move away from those extraneous costs. “So we’re trying to move away from those processes that are complicated and require a lot of hands,” he said.
Financing seems on track at SUNY New Paltz, officials say
Last year, SUNY New Paltz planned to spend $60.4 million on its core instructional budget — that’s anything to do with what students are learning in the lecture halls. They actually spent just more than $58 million, said Jacqueline DiStefano, the vice president for finance and administration.
“New Paltz met our target this year and we exceeded it by about $1 million,” DiStefano explained. Part of the savings in the instructional budget had to do with longer-serving professors having taken early retirement. The last academic year was the first time those retirees came out of the system. “People who were retiring were off the payroll for one-half of the year.”
Revenues for last year were also lower, and they didn’t match that original $60.4 million estimate. However, they did match with the $58 million the liberal arts college spent, meaning that they broke even, “which is really good news.”
In 2011-2012, it looks like the college is on track for a possible surplus in that instructional budget. Planned revenues were $57.3 million and they’ve taken in $29.57 million to date. Planned expenses are $56.75 million and the actual amount spent to date is $14.21 million.
“We’re less than a quarter of the way through the year…” she said. “I don’t see anything to predict that we’d overspend our budget.”
The vice president added that SUNY New Paltz still had to face a soft economy and political uncertainty from Albany. “We’re not out of the woods as far as our economy,” she said. ++