Dahl: Program curtailments could be revealed within the next month

At an open college forum on Oct. 15, President Christopher Dahl addressed many of the ongoing financial concerns faced by the college at what he called "the first in a series of regular forums about the budget."

"This is, for me, a very difficult moment in the history of the college," Dahl said. New York state first announced cuts to the SUNY operating budget in 2008, and state funding available to SUNY and many other state agencies has been reduced considerably since then.

The funding reductions have been partially offset by an annual $620 increase in tuition, but the college faced an operating deficit of nearly $7 million for the 2010-2011 academic year. That gap has until now been managed in part through one-time measures including the application of funds derived from IFRs and SUTRAs toward the operating budget.

The college has also reduced total salary expenses by $2,523,198 - 6.6 percent of total salary expense - by keeping 35 positions vacant upon discontinuation of service or retirement. OTPS expense has been cut by $1,015,699, and student temp service expenses have been cut by $243,614.

Dahl said that the adjustments made so far are unsustainable in the long term and that the college is "exploring all possible options" for finding and maximizing savings. One of those options is program curtailment, which refers to the discontinuation of an academic program such as a minor or major.

"We must seriously consider program curtailments," Dahl said on Friday.

Potential programs to curtail will be evaluated using the criteria of mission relatedness, quality, cost, enrollment trends, interrelatedness with other programs, sustainability and potential fundraising implications.

"We've got a long list of criteria and we're trying to use them as thoughtfully, as carefully as we can," Dahl said. He added that a decision relating to program curtailment could be made by the semester's end.

Reductions in state funding affect the college's operating budget, 70 percent of which is comprised of salary expenses. Capital expenditures such as the erection of an athletic stadium and the renovation of Doty Hall are unaffected by the state cuts. Also unaffected is Campus Auxiliary Services, a non-for-profit corporation that provides dining, laundry, garbage and cable TV services to the campus.

BUDGET TERMINOLOGY

IFR: Income Fund Reimbursable account. An IFR is created when a SUNY institution collects student fees for self-sustaining operations such as health centers and residence halls. Funding for these activities is not provided by the state, so the college is afforded some flexibility in being able to retain any excess revenues realized from these operations. For 2010-2011, Geneseo drew $1,523,700 in IFR reserves to use in its operating budget.

SUTRA: State University Tuition Reimbursable Accounts. This is a type of IFR that is generated when SUNY institutions collect a level of tuition revenue that exceeds targeted levels; Geneseo had a higher-than-expected enrollment this year and used $1,542,800 of that "extra" money to manage cuts in state funding support.

OTPS: Other Than Personal Services. This refers to expenses such as equipment, supplies and travel that are incurred by college departments but do not relate directly to salary expense.

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