President Elson S. Floyd

Perspectives

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 4/14/10

The Legislature's Budget

After a lengthy session, the Washington Legislature has produced a state budget that includes a reduction of $13.5 million or about 6.3 percent in Washington State University's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Considering the difficult fiscal situation facing our state's leaders, this budget is about the best we could have expected. In fact, the budget reduction for WSU is very much in line with Gov. Christine Gregoire's original budget proposal.

The legislative deliberations did produce several positive developments, however. The final budget largely restores funding for state need grants and it preserves most of the state's support for work study programs. Both are important programs in safeguarding student access to higher education.

The Legislature gave WSU the authority to finance and purchase a new WSU Student Services core computing system, which is absolutely essential for our daily operations, and approved funding to design the expansion of the Riverpoint Biomedical and Health Sciences Building at WSU Spokane.

Still, the overall budget cut for WSU will require some difficult decisions for us all.

As most of you know, our administration plans to address the upcoming round of budget cuts by creating a centrally held deficit which we must subsequently pay off. When positions become vacant—either through retirement or attrition—they will come under the authority of the provost's office. There, the decision will be made about which positions can be eliminated, which can be consolidated, and which will be filled.

The money from positions that are not filled will go back into the central budget in order to repay our debt. Meanwhile, our statewide hiring freeze remains in effect and the Board of Regents has approved two voluntary retirement incentive programs to help create more open positions.

Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly and I will discuss the budget outlook for WSU at a forum to be held at 4:10 p.m. Monday, April 19, in the Compton Union Building auditorium. The provost and I will welcome your questions, comments, and concerns.

In another budget-related step this week, I advised academic and administrative leaders across the institution that, effective immediately, WSU will cease the practice of directly rehiring retirees full-time into the same or similar positions, without an open and competitive search.

I have come to believe, particularly in the face of economic difficulties that are only slowly abating, that such retire-rehire situations, while permissible, are no longer in the best interest of WSU. This practice has not been widely used in recent years at WSU, so the impact of this change will not be dramatic.

However, at a time when we are hoping to manage our budget reduction largely through voluntary retirements and other attrition, I do not want there to be any expectation that retiring workers might be directly rehired to their current positions without a search. When positions become vacant, we will continue to look at ways that we can refocus our efforts to do more with less.

While there is no question that the ongoing budget cuts will pose challenges to us all, I remain confident that, by adopting sensible strategies and by working together, we can emerge as a stronger and more focused institution.

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