December 9, 2015
Dear Marshall University community,
As you are probably aware, the Board of Governors met earlier today on the Huntington campus. Among the items on the agenda was a reforecast of the university’s budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2016.
You will recall that the reforecast was made necessary by the governor’s announcement in October of a four percent mid-year budget cut for state agencies. Overall, the university’s state funding has been reduced by $11.5 million since 2013.
The budget presented to the board today anticipates we will be able to absorb the latest state cut and finish the fiscal year with a balanced budget. That is good news and is due in large part to the hard work members of the university community have done and will continue to do to reduce expenses and increase net revenue.
We are pleased to tell you that the new budget sets aside a two percent salary pool for faculty and staff raises. The salary increases will become effective in January.
The board felt strongly that we needed to keep our pledge to give raises this year. The university has made a commitment to investing in strategic priorities, even in a time of reduced state allocations, and people are our greatest resource.
With that in mind, we want to make certain the entire university community understands how critical the budget issues will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This mid-year budget cut from the state is not a temporary or one-time reduction. This reduced funding level will become the base for our state appropriation going forward. On top of that, we anticipate that there will be up to four percent in additional cuts to start off Fiscal Year 2017. We may even have further reductions during this budget year. The state budget situation is that serious.
Marshall University is a vibrant, healthy institution and we must keep ourselves in a position to continue to grow and thrive. Over the past couple of years, we have gained just about all the efficiencies we can from simple belt-tightening and canceling of open positions. At this point, we will be forced to make tough decisions about our priorities as an institution.
Going forward, the Marshall 20/20 process will continue, but at an accelerated pace. The budget issues are not solved. We still have a $2.6 million hole to fill in this year’s budget and today’s reforecast depends on realizing a significant savings from the 20/20 initiative. The 20/20 savings and revenues are coming in more slowly than projected and we simply have to keep our foot on the gas. Looking ahead to next year, we will need to find even more savings, so the process will continue and expand.
In addition, the Office of Academic Affairs and the deans are beginning an intensive review of the viability of all academic programs. The review will apply objective criteria to every academic program and will include metrics like class size, graduation rate and number of students enrolled in the program. This process will lead to a streamlining of the university’s academic operations similar to what is being done with administrative departments through Marshall 20/20. These will be intentional changes to what we offer and how we offer it. Decisions will be made very quickly after the start of the year so that changes to the academic portfolio can be effective starting next fall.
As a result of these initiatives to “right-size” Marshall, some programs and services will receive more resources and some may be downsized or discontinued. There will be associated changes in faculty and staffing levels. There’s no way around it. We want to be able to continue to invest in new programs, initiatives, facilities and our people, and the only way to do that is to take a hard look at where we want to go and how we can get there.
Some of these will be difficult decisions and we pledge that any affected members of the university community will be treated with dignity and respect.
Even though he is not officially on board until January, President-elect Gilbert already is involved in the budget process and other important university issues. He is actively engaged with university leadership and has been sitting in via Skype for the weekly vice president meetings. He also will be participating remotely in a planning retreat on Friday with the Office of Academic Affairs and the deans.
Dr. Gilbert and the board have asked Interim President White to stay on at Marshall in a part-time consulting role to help continue the momentum on Marshall 20/20 and other budget-related issues. We can assure you that we are all on exactly the same page about the challenges and opportunities we face and how best to proceed. There won’t be any slow-down or disconnect on any of these initiatives when our new president arrives.
As Dr. Gilbert said in his remarks at the welcome event last week, we have some heavy lifting to do in the short term but we will come out on the other side of this as an even stronger, better institution, and one that is equipped to face the future.
Thank you for your dedication and commitment to Marshall University.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have suggestions or comments.
Michael G. Sellards
Chairman of the Board of Governors
Gary G. White