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March 14, 2013 Volume 34, No. 23

A projected $2.3 million shortfall for Mizzou’s 2014 budget has administrators exploring options


Employees attending meeting suggested ways to stanch budget

shortfall of $2.3 million is projected for the University of Missouri’s budget for fiscal 2014 without raises or benefit cost increases, the Budget Office said March 7.  Budget officials and administrators are exploring ways to make up the projected deficit.

But despite this, the general timbre of the budget meeting in the Reynolds Alumni Center was positive. Budget Director Rhonda Gibler said MU has no huge past deficits and has money in “reserves at a responsible level, with 61 percent of reserves held within colleges.” 

MU’s spending plan has had to adjust to declining state higher education appropriations for more than a decade. Tuition funds have compensated somewhat for the loss to state-provided general operating funds. Gibler said the fiscal 2013 operating budget in part consisted of 31 percent state funds and 62 percent tuition. By contrast, fiscal 1990 was made up of 70 percent state funds and 27 percent tuition. 

Gibler said that, though the budget has been well managed year to year, the data suggests “we’ve just been getting by.” Unless some changes are made, MU might have a budget shortfall of $3 million annually in coming years without making progress on the highest priority items identified by the campus. 

“We are being more efficient but not making choices that are sustainable over the long term,” Gibler said.

Budget woes can affect MU’s highest priorities, including raising faculty salaries, infrastructure maintenance, and funding research and development faculty leaves. The numbers are sobering. To  improve MU tenure/tenure-track-faculty salaries in comparison to peers, for example, would take an influx of at least $14 million a year, Gibler said.

But there is hope. “The issues are not impossible for us to solve,” she said.

Much of the two-hour meeting was a discussion of possible approaches to raising funds to stanch the budget deficit and strategies to reach MU’s strategic priorities. Gibler and Provost Brian Foster facilitated the discussion with about 20 faculty and staff.

In-state tuition cannot be raised higher than the CPI (consumer price index) each year by Missouri law; the CPI impacting fiscal 2014 is 1.7 percent. A discussion ensued about raising out-of-state tuition by a greater percentage, which is not limited by the Missouri Higher Education Student Funding Act. But a balance must be struck between the tuition increase and the applicants lost due to the increase, Gibler said.

The question is “how much can you change your price and still not hurt your enrollment?” Gibler said. 

As for the issue of faculty salaries, Foster suggested one approach might be obtaining endowments that provide about $20,000 in annual revenue that could go toward faculty compensation. 

The meeting ended with a discussion of attempts to mitigate health costs. Healthy for Life, the UM System wellness program, has about 700 wellness ambassadors across the four campuses, of which 300 are at MU. Healthy for Life Director Laura Schopp encouraged faculty and staff to exercise more and eat healthier to stave off chronic health conditions that cost the university millions of dollars each year.

“It is in our interest to keep people healthy well into retirement,” Schopp said.