SEMO regents pass $98.3 million operating budget

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A long-term plan for dealing with consecutive years of cuts to state appropriations going to Southeast Missouri State University was deemed a success by its president and board of regents Wednesday as the board approved the coming academic year's $98.3 million operating budget.

Strategies planned in 2010 and acted upon since have done well to keep falling state contributions from affecting academic program quality at the university, president Ken Dobbins told the board Wednesday.

"We are so far ahead with our academic and financial planning because of what we did," he said.

Budget planning for 2013 was based on an anticipated 8 percent cut, equal to $3.3 million, to state appropriations for the university. In response, the board in May approved a tuition raise -- 3 percent for in-state students, 6 percent for out-of-state students -- and several cost-cutting measures are planned, including changes to employee benefit programs, combining the university's College of Science and Mathematics and the School of Polytechnic Studies into the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture, eliminating some vacant staff positions and replacing retiring tenured faculty with nontenured instructors as well as reducing instructional operating budgets and noninstructional operating budgets.

Those cuts combined with changes made in previous years means the university has put $14.3 million toward the $20 million shortfall its budget review committee determined in March 2010 would occur between 2011 and 2015, said Kathy Mangels, the university's vice president of finance and administration.

Since the planning of the budget review committee has so far benefited the university, Dobbins said he would like arrangements to begin this winter for a similar strategic plan that would span another three to five years.

The board also approved a $36.7 million auxiliary budget for 2013, which funds the university's "units" such as the Show Me Center and bookstore. Revenue from increases to room and board rates -- by 2.43 percent and 4.96 percent, respectively -- approved in the spring are incorporated into that budget, Mangels said.

The university's total operating budget in 2012 was $96.7 million, and included small percentage raises for faculty and staff. The budget for 2013 will also raise pay by increasing faculty base merit salaries by 1.75 percent. A 0.25 percent increase will be added to the salary pool for post-professional merit increases, and regular nontenure track merit pay will increase from $1,250 to $2,000. Two percent raises will also be applied to base merit salaries for other staff and to graduate student stipends. Mangels said the raises are possible due to the tuition increase, which cost a full-time student $190 a semester.

The $98.3 million budget plan for 2012 evolved after a series of announcements regarding cuts to higher education were made by Gov. Jay Nixon. He originally proposed a 12.5 percent reduction to state funding for college and universities in January but scaled back the proposed amount after announcing $40 million would be added back because of a multimillion-dollar settlement with mortgage lenders.

Regents also approved sending a capital budget request to the state government at Wednesday's meeting, but as in years past, they don't expect to receive any funds for capital projects. Mangels said the state hasn't filled the requests since 2001 because funding is not available but that schools still submit the requests to give the state an idea of needs on campus and the condition of buildings. An example Mangels outlined for the board was improvements needed to the infrastructure and utility systems of the aging art building on campus.

Board president Brad Bedell said the request's purpose is limited to a communication between the state and the university.

"It's our wish list," he said. "It is what it is."

eragan@semissourian.com

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