In early July 2015 the state legislature finalized and the governor signed funding plans for operations and construction/facilities for the 2015 – 2017 biennium. CWU budget and legislative staff have been poring over these complex documents since they were approved. The operating budget alone is 538 pages, with hundreds of pages of supporting documents. Now the legislature is in its third special session, with a few budget decisions still before them.
Following is a summary of key decisions and their impact on CWU—as we understand them today. Staff will continue to analyze the budget and develop recommendations for discussion and adoption by the Board of Trustees at the end of this month.
The operating budget reduces tuition for resident undergraduates by 5 percent this year (2015-16) and by 15 percent next year. That brings CWU tuition to $6904 this year and $5919 the year after.
Legislators also provided some money to replace tuition revenue lost with the cut in tuition rates, and to off-set the cost of services associated with improving graduate rates and some of the cost of collective bargaining agreements.
The state budget fully funds CWU contracts with the Washington State Federation of State Employees and Public School Employees. Additional funding is provided to be used--at the discretion of each university--to increase compensation or implement other collective bargaining agreements. We are working now to see what compensation adjustment is possible for exempt employees, who have had just one general increase in the last seven years.
These off-sets come after a year in which we focused intently on reducing costs. As you will recall, last year we closed a $6.5 million university budget gap by eliminating about 58 positions and by assuming that academic programs would increase revenue. Academic revenue needs to grow by $1.8 million in the upcoming academic year and by $2.3 million in the next. As a result of better retention and more effective recruitment, student enrollment also is on target to grow over the next two years—from 10,167 (annual average headcount) students for FY 2015 to an estimated 10,440 (average annual headcount) in FY 2017.
If these assumptions hold true, I am cautiously optimistic that, for the short-run at least, CWU can look forward to budgets that are not balanced by cuts or reserves! But that assumes the tuition reduction and additional state funding don’t change, and that academic programs grow revenue and we see new enrollment, through retention and recruitment.
One other important note about budget language concerts Services and Activities fees. State law specifies that S&A fees may not increase faster than the “annual percentage increase in student tuition fees.” Freezing tuition would also freeze S&A fees. However, the budget language has decoupled S&A Fees and tuition in each of the last few years, including this one. Bottom line, S&A fees can rise if students choose to increase them.
CWU is looking forward to a record capital budget of more than $95.2 million, which includes the following projects:
• Bouillon Hall ($4.977 million) - renovation
• Combined Utilities ($8.0 million) – upgrading underground infrastructure, from electrical to fiber to steam
• Lind Hall ($4.9 million) - renovation
• Preservation ($5.935 million) – “paint, patch, and fix” projects
• Program (3.777 million) – modernizing facilities to meet program needs
• Health Sciences ($4.3 million) – phase two of a predesign-design-build project to house the Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Sciences
• Old Heat - Plant Annex ($4.9 million) – tear down and replace the south annex of “Old Heat,” the steam plan on University Way
• Preventive Maintenance ($2.411 million)
• Samuelson Computer Science & Tech ($56.041 million) – demolish and replace the southern portion of Samuelson; renovate the northern portion. The new facility will house ITAM, math, computer science, multi-modal learning and the university data center.
We also received approval for up to $8.4 million in bonds to fund the renovation for the oldest portion of the old boiler plant.
In general the new state budgets are encouraging and represent significant improvements over those of the previous five years. Staff are continuing to analyze legislative budget documents—which are still emerging from the third special session of the legislature. Watch your email and Central Today for further updates!