SEMO Board of Regents to consider operating budget today

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents is expected to vote today on a $96.7 million fiscal year 2012 operating budget, a spending plan that provides the first raises for faculty and staff in two years and minimally affects student tuition, according to the institution's chief executive.

It's a pared-back budget from fiscal year 2011's $97.2 million, continuing Southeast's drive to cut the budget and raise revenue through 2015.

The board also will consider $34.7 million in auxiliary budgets -- including residence life, student recreation and aquatic centers, the Show Me Center, and other campus services. That's up from $32.5 million last year. Regents also will consider the annual capital budget request for fiscal 2013, to be submitted to the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates will rise 4.8 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year, an increase approved at the board's May meeting. The budget also includes raises -- faculty base merit salary increases of 1.75 percent and a 0.25 percent salary pool to fund post-professorial merit increases, a staff base merit salary increase of 2 percent and the same for graduate assistant stipends.

"Considering that university faculty and staff have not received a salary increase for two years and the demands placed on personnel to continue university operations with reduced budgets, merit based salary increases were a priority ..." states the regents' motion consideration form.

"We've minimized the increases for students, even as we have taken a significant hit on reductions in our appropriations for the past couple of years," said Southeast president Ken Dobbins. "That shows that we've been good stewards of our state funds and tuition dollars."

Southeast, like Missouri's other institutions of higher education, had cheered the legislature's approval of a $23 billion-plus state budget, which included a 5.5 percent reduction in appropriations to the state's public colleges and universities. The cuts were lower than Gov. Jay Nixon's plan to trim higher education spending by 7 percent, amounting to about a $3.13 million hit to Southeast's budget.

Earlier this month Nixon announced the 7 percent reduction was back on the table, needed to fill $172 million in budget cuts driven in large part by devastating and expensive natural disasters that hit Southeast Missouri and Joplin this spring.

Southeast's Budget Review Committee, made up of administrators, faculty and staff, drafted its version of the fiscal year 2012 document with the 7 percent state funding cut in mind, and targeted any additional savings for possible funding. While the raises and tuition increases are set, the diminished state funding will more than likely draw down need-based financial aid the board of regents had considered allocating. Board members have expressed concern that the tuition increase and threatened state and federal grant programs could force some low- to moderate-income students out of higher education.

The latest budget follows more than a year of deliberations on filling an anticipated $20 million shortfall between 2010 and 2015. The estimated gap is based on the assumption that state appropriations could be reduced by as much as 20 percent over that period. There was early fear a 15 percent to 20 percent cut might be in the cards in the last legislative session alone.

State appropriations represent 43 percent of Southeast's fiscal year 2012 budget, down from 49.5 percent five years ago, according to a university document.

To date, Southeast says it has realized -- or will realize -- $1.15 million in savings through a redesign of employee benefits. The board also assessed a 5 percent reduction of operation budgets on all divisions in fiscal years 2011 and 2012. Revenue increases include $540,000 in higher enrollment in summer courses.

Dobbins said Southeast is shifting its efforts to building enrollment and bolstering income.

"The majority of all the cuts have been made. We did that at first, and now we're growing all the revenue," the president said.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

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One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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