I am writing with an additional update regarding the budget situation and to describe the reduction process for UWF. The news coming from Tallahassee continues to be quite bleak. The legislative session is set to commence next week on March 3. In preparation, the legislative budget committees are currently considering models of 10 percent and 15 percent budget reductions to higher education for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Additionally, we may take another 2 percent reduction in this fiscal year (2008-2009) because of the continued decline of state revenues. This is an ever-evolving landscape that will continue to change as we progress. However, in preparation, the vice presidents and I have been discussing the best strategies to deal with these reductions, and I want to share the paths we have identified.
Second Current-Year Budget Reduction. As mentioned in my February 3 message we were able to make the January 2009 four percent budget reduction at the central level. This was possible because of the additional recurring holdbacks (reserves) from last fiscal year. The result was minimal mid-year interruption. Likewise, we have enough central non-recurring funds to cover the anticipated additional 2 percent reduction for FY2008-2009. Therefore we will not require reductions from your budgets this fiscal year. However, because we are only "plugging" this year's additional reduction with non-recurring cash, we will have to take the two percent recurring out of next year's budget, in addition to what is required for next year.
2009-2010 Budget Reduction Plan. As mentioned in my February 3 message, we are beginning our modeling exercises for anticipated next year reductions. We feel it is prudent for UWF to do two budget reduction exercises, one at 7 percent and one at 12 percent less than this year's budget. These percentages are 3 percent less than each of the legislative models of 10 percent and 15 percent because the legislature is considering reductions to Education and General funding, which is only a portion of our budget.
Please remember that at this point these are only planning exercises. We remain optimistic about possible revenue sources. For instance, just last week the tuition bill that would give authority to our board of trustees to raise undergraduate tuition by 15 percent annually, until reaching the national average, cleared the senate higher education committee. There is still a long way to go but this is a positive development. Additionally, the Governor's budget, released on Friday, does not pose cuts to education. Rather, the Governor suggests non-recurring stimulus funds be used to fill the $6 billion statewide gap, along with an increase in fees such as driver's licenses, elimination of some sales tax exemptions and gambling revenues. In contrast the legislature is not widely advocating for using these non-recurring, two-year stimulus funds, for recurring operating expenditures. Rather it is focused on making necessary cuts, modification of sales tax exemptions, internet sales tax, modifications to bright futures and a tax hike on cigarettes. These differences will be worked out over the next 60 days during the legislative session.
In the meantime, I am reaching out to ask for your help and cooperation as we plan for these possibilities. The vice presidents and I are unanimous that the reductions will not be across the board this year as it has been in the past. We will give priority to direct instruction, support for direct instruction, student services, and critical support services; however, the E&G budget for every unit will be reduced. We are all in this together and must remain focused on our priorities. Thus, we will use our newly completed strategic plan to guide our decision-making.
It is extremely important to have input from faculty, staff and students as we begin this difficult process. Therefore, we have scheduled a half-day structured and facilitated cross-divisional budget discussion retreat with the faculty and staff leadership (Campus Chairs Group, the College Councils, the Dean's Council, the Emerald Coast Council, the Faculty Senate, the Library Faculty Council, divisional directors, and the Staff Senate) and anyone else who would like to participate this Friday, Feb. 27, from 1 to 5 p.m. in Building 58A, Room 101 on the Pensacola campus. This is a follow-up to the strategic planning retreat held last September. The Strategic Priorities and Measurable Achievements grew out of that retreat, and will be used to drive budget decisions. The priorities are located at: http://uwf.edu/academic/botagendaitems/Strategic_Priorities_02_2009.pdf.
Jim Hurd and Bill Healey will be the facilitators and will focus the conversation on how to minimize the impact to UWF, how to create efficiencies, and new revenue generation ideas.
We are also working with student leadership to plan an input session for students.
Budget Web site. In an effort to keep everyone informed we will soon launch a budget information Web site. The site will include information on the status of the process and up-to-date budget legislative information.
As we go through this process I urge each and every one of you to please stay calm and to remain focused on our primary mission of educating students. We remain optimistic but must prepare for all scenarios. I ask for your help, support, and collegiality as we go forward.