Fiscal Challenges in the New Year
Cameron University faculty and staff are continuing to prepare for not only state budget allocation deductions for FY2017 but also state tax revenue affecting current FY2016.
Cameron President John McArthur said near the end of December, he received a letter from the Oklahoma Board of Equalization, who reviews the state tax revenue.
“They reviewed the amount of money coming in,” McArthur said, “and it was low enough that they’ve asked each of the state agencies to reduce and return some of the money we received from the state.”
McArthur said the amount of money the board asked him to return is $579,217, and the university will return the money in six equal payments from January through June.
“How do we reduce our budget by $579, 217?” McArthur asked. “We’re going to do a five percent reduction retroactive to the beginning of the year.”
According to McArthur, the university has curtailed some out-state-travel, reduced materials purchases, which include paper and office supplies, and put in a soft hiring freeze for vacancies.
“If anybody retired or resigned, unless there’s something that affects the safety and the security of campus, we have not been replacing those positions,” McArthur said. “We’re holding off until July before we make any new hiring decisions.”
On July 1, FY2017 will begin.
McArthur said the Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified 6.0592 billion dollars to the legislature for FY2017, which is 12.9 percent less than last year’s certification.
In response to the state budget allocation deduction, McArthur said Cameron’s budget is expected to be reduced by three million dollars.
In the fall, McArthur began a planning list for increased revenue and reduced services, and he asked for suggestions from faculty and students.
“I am very pleased with the campus feedback as we listened during the fall term,” McArthur said. “We ended up with well over a hundred items that were suggested both for cost efficiencies or for revenue.”
McArthur said the sum of all the items on the list add up to about eight million dollars.
“That’s our discussion list,” McArthur said. “By no means [are we] doing all those things … We have three million dollars in candidates for review.”
According to McArthur, the suggested items fit under ten categories, some of which are related to academic programs, athletics, salary and benefits for employees, facilities, changes in student support, travel and revenue.
McArthur presented the list of items to Cameron employees on Jan. 5, and he is scheduled to speak in a meeting with the Student Government Association (SGA) on Jan. 25.
“I’ll provide that list at that meeting so that our students have the opportunity to look at the same items and comment as well,” McArthur said. “The main thing is looking at the items on that list and understanding the impact of making those changes.”
McArthur said students, faculty and staff can visit http://www.cameron.edu/fiscalyear2017 to make suggestions.
“We want the campus conversation because collectively, we’re a lot smarter than we are individually,” he said. “There are a lot of bright people on this campus—students, staff, and faculty … We’ll find a way that we can continue to provide a great education at Cameron for our students while keeping it inexpensive and then helping us have quality teachers, too.”
McArthur said he encourages students who have concerns to engage their professors and academic advisors.
“We’re here to provide support for the education of our students,” he said.
According to McArthur, a frequent topic of discussion among students is the elimination of degree programs.
“No one in the middle of their degree program is going to be told, ‘You can’t study that anymore,’” he said. “All the problematic changes would be very gradual … It would be for high school students now who are applying to Cameron; we wouldn’t allow them to declare that major if we canceled something.”
Another topic of concern among students has been the cancelation of scholarships.
“We will honor current agreements,” McArthur said, “so regardless of how we address the budget shortfall, we’re going to make sure to protect our current students …. We will honor the scholarships through the term they’re committed to Cameron.”