I write to share our understanding, at present, of the Governor's budget proposal released last Tuesday. As expected, the proposal includes a fourth cut that would be filled with a tuition increase of $620. This reduction and the corresponding increase would take effect for spring 2009. Rhetoric from the Governor’s Office continues to trumpet the fact that SUNY will be allowed to “keep” a small slice of this tuition increase, but the fact remains that this is another major cut to the State University and, in effect, a tax on SUNY students and their families.
Other items that are included in the proposal that will impact our 2009-2010 budget are as follows:
- an increase to SUNY's state support for negotiated salary increases ($61.8M);
- an inflationary increase for supplies, contracts and utilities ($18.2M);
- a new recurring base cut, totaling $47.8M, which is expected to be filled largely from extant campus reserves; and
- the reduction or elimination of many SUNY university wide programs ($22.8M) (e.g., Academic Equipment Replacement and Student Computing Access Program), though fortunately the EOP program has not been cut.
A cautionary note with regard to the inclusion of funding for collective bargaining increases. The language in the Governor’s Office press releases and media coverage contradicts the inclusion of this funding in SUNY's base budget for next year. In a variety of public settings, the Governor continues to advocate for the nonpayment or deferral of salary increases—which could become an unfunded mandate and fifth cut to SUNY campuses.
The proposed new cut of $47.8M and the proposal to use reserves to fill this cut is very troubling. How the Governor intends to fill a base cut with one-time funding is, of course, a great mystery; even more troubling, however, is the prospect that reserve funds that campuses like New Paltz have accumulated to deal with financial emergencies might be raided to fill other state coffers. At this moment, we cannot predict the impact of this additional cut on New Paltz's budget. If the cut stands, much will depend on which reserves from which campus or system accounts are tapped to fill this new hole. As you are aware, our campus has already committed to use reserves in managing previously-accessed reductions in the FY09 year. It is almost certain that the use of our reserves will also continue into the next fiscal year as we work to implement spending plans consistent with greatly reduced resources. Obviously, if these funds were seized and diverted elsewhere, our budget situation would become much more dire.
To summarize, as you’ll surely recall from previous communications and reports, the college faces an envelope of cuts ranging from a best case of $3.6M to a worst case of $5.4M—the latter assumes no funded salary increases. If the raises are funded but there is a new cut, our deficit will likely still be in excess of $5M, but it’s unclear. If there is no funding for raises and a sixth cut, our projected deficit will grow further.
This is our best understanding of the proposal at present. As more clarification or information becomes available in regard to his proposal we will be sure to share it with you.