Budget change raises concerns

The New York State budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year has been adopted, but there are still important decisions the legislature and the State University of New York Board of Trustees need to make regarding distribution of funds. They will release these decisions in late May or early June, the results of which could have a dramatic impact on Geneseo’s budget for both this and next year. According to Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy, “Even under the best-case scenario, the budget is very disappointing from the perspective of the college.”

It is important to note, however, that the definite budget has not been decided yet.

“Quite frankly, at the end of the day, we haven’t seen – and don’t expect to see for several weeks at least – how SUNY plans to distribute the money to campuses,” Milroy said.

This year’s budget does not include funding from the state to cover collective bargaining increases. These increases are due to the raises employees of United University Professions received this year, which the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations negotiated.

According to Milroy, while UUP negotiated raises for this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t fund them in the budget he provided for SUNY.

According to the Governor’s Press Office, the state implemented the NY SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant Program, which made long-term economic plans to improve the educational environment of SUNY campuses. This bill plans to raise tuition for five years in a row in order to accomplish this goal. It is currently in year four of the five-year plan. If collective bargaining increases remain unfunded by the state, however, Geneseo will have to accommodate for these increases, which will include using the raises in students’ tuition.

“The intent of the legislation, in my opinion, is that if students agreed to pay the $300 increase in tuition, which many student associations across the state agreed to do, then that money would be used to enhance their educational experience,” Milroy said. “In fact, more than half of that money is being used, in the current year, to pay for collective bargaining increases that you had no role in negotiating as a student.”

Milroy indicated that even if the legislative changes come through in the best way possible, students will still end up paying $573,330 out of their net tuition increase, and the campus will end up with a slight benefit of $413,000. SUNY campuses will also benefit if the legislature amends the Tuition Assistance Program.

Milroy stated that the first course of action to save money due to the new budget would most likely be vacancy control.

“We will take a look at our list of vacancies and see if there are things we can live without in our current environment,” he said.

Milroy expressed his disappointment with the failure of the 2011 legislature to keep its promise.

“The 2020 legislation doesn’t provide us with the ability now to develop within the five-year plans that we developed, and it doesn’t provide us with the ability to enhance [students’] educational experiences,” he said.