October 6, 2015
As you have no doubt seen in the news, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has announced an across-the-board mid-year budget cut of four percent for West Virginia government agencies, including public higher education.
We have anticipated these reductions in light of the State’s reported shortfall in budgeted revenues for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Fortunately, through our Marshall 20/20 strategic planning process, we have a process in place to deal with this latest reduction, which is projected to reduce our operating budget for the year by nearly $2 million. The school of medicine and other programs with separate budget lines may incur up to $600,000 in cuts.
Fortunately, we budgeted conservatively this year and our enrollment numbers look good overall. We just completed a financial review by Fitch Ratings and were able to maintain our “AA-” rating, indicating that our financial condition—our balance sheet—remains strong despite several straight years of reductions in state and federal funding. This year’s operating budget contemplates savings of $3 million as identified by our 20/20 process. As I reported to you last week, to date, we have realized less than $900,000 of that projected savings. Given yesterday evening’s announcement, we surely have some difficult choices ahead if we are to balance our current operating budget while maintaining the strength of our balance sheet.
The Marshall community has been ahead of the curve in dealing with the cuts in funding. Given that we already had undergone nearly $9 million in reductions to our total state appropriations since 2013, we no longer have the luxury of nibbling around the edges if we expect to continue to grow and flourish. Therefore, we will proceed to make strategic decisions to further focus our resources on those academic programs and services that best serve our students, while providing stable and competitive employment for our faculty and staff—both today and in the future.
Unfortunately, Governor Tomblin had little choice but to enact a cut given the precipitous drop in tax revenues. The Marshall community has come together to meet these challenges in the past and I am confident we will do so again.
The university’s administrative leadership will begin meeting today to develop plans for absorbing this additional cut. We will continue to involve the campus community as we move forward and pledge to keep you informed.
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have suggestions or comments. I hope to see you at our informal monthly Open House, which will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) from 3-4 p.m. in Old Main 213. Feel free to stop by for a snack and a chat!
Gary G. White