WMU News

President Bailey issues message on new budget

July 17, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Immediately following yesterday's meeting of the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees, President Judith Bailey sent a message to the campus community regarding the implications of 2003-04 budget, increases in tuition and fees, and operating budget and staff reductions. The complete text of Bailey's message to the campus community follows.

Two weeks ago, Bailey scheduled three "Town Hall" meetings in anticipation of questions and concerns from members of the campus community following adoption of new budget. The open campus meetings take place in Brown Auditorium of Schneider Hall on Thursday, July 17, from 3 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. and on Friday, July 18, from 8 to 10 a.m.

To the Campus Community:

The tough measures we must take to deal with a $34.8 million shortfall in the budget will, indeed, be news, but it is news you should first hear directly from me, not from the media.

Even before my official start as the University's seventh president on June 9, I began meeting with senior leadership to develop a plan to deal with the dire financial straits we face this year. Our efforts had two main goals--to protect our core educational mission and to minimize the impact of budget reductions on our colleagues.

On Thursday and Friday, July 17 and 18, I will hold "Town Hall" meetings to discuss the issues we face and the process your senior leadership team went through to develop the 2003/04 budget. Until then, I want you to be aware of the basics of the plan the board acted upon today.

The budget our trustees passed includes a shortfall of $34.8 million, which is the result of a $12.5 million cut in state appropriations and $22.3 million in increased costs over last year's budget. Those increases include costs associated with such items as healthcare, utilities, new building openings and increased student financial aid. You may have heard today about a $500,000 supplemental appropriation to our 2002/03 budget. While we are enormously grateful to the state, these one-time monies do not address the serious ongoing funding issues we face.

To address this shortfall, the board has approved an annual tuition and fees increase of $611 for the typical in-state undergraduate student. This increase alone, however, will not offset our reduced state appropriation, nor will it cover anticipated increases.

Therefore, we will implement a budget reduction plan that cuts 15 percent from the budgets of non-academic units. Each senior officer has been asked to meet that goal through cost avoidance measures; cuts to operating funds; leaving vacant positions unfilled; and if necessary, through staff reductions.

The plans developed call for 38 percent of the cost reduction to come from operations expenses and 62 percent from compensation savings. Because our faculty numbers are already too low, and because we are determined to protect our core educational mission, the compensation cuts will take place in non-instructional areas.

The compensation savings will come from a reduction in our work force of 180 FTE positions. That reduction will be accomplished by not filling 56 current vacancies; transferring some 32 employees to vacant positions in other areas; reducing the number of part-time, student and graduate student employees; and finally, and most regrettably, reducing by 61 our number of full-time regular positions. Those reductions will come through layoffs.

On a personal level, the need to deliver such news to a university community with whom I am just becoming acquainted is incredibly painful. There is no more daunting role for the leader of an organization than to deliver news that will have a devastating effect on employees. Even though we have worked to keep the layoff numbers as low as possible, this will be a difficult and often emotional process for each individual affected, and we will help as much as we can.

The process of advising those individuals will be a private one, and I assure you that each step will be carried out with the needs of our employees in mind. Supervisors will make the notifications with the assistance of human resources, which will begin very soon as we are already into the new budget year. Those employees will be eligible to apply as internal candidates for positions that may become open and for other assistance that will be discussed at the Town Hall meetings.

These are the basic elements of the budget reduction plan that the board approved today. This has been a long, complex and challenging process. I recognize the fact that you will have many questions and you will want to know how this will affect you, your department and our colleagues. I will answer your questions and share more information at the Town Hall meetings Thursday and Friday. I urge you to bring your questions and concerns to one of the three meetings, which will take place in Schneider Hall's Brown Auditorium from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and from 8 to 10 a.m. Friday.

This is one of the more serious financial situations our university has faced in its 100-year history. While it will be a difficult period, I am confident that we will do what is necessary to meet the challenges and to support one another, as is the tradition of this great institution.

Judith I. Bailey
President, Western Michigan University

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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