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Student Senate addresses proposed budget increases

March 7, 2014

For the past few weeks, Student Senate has been hearing presentations for budget increases for campus departments for recommendation to the chancellor.

Brooke Frelich, chair of Facilities and Fees (F&F), has been working with the various departments to produce budgets that will allow those departments to maintain or better services for students.

“Not all budgets are increasing but for those that are, the increase is necessary to continue operations, as well as to increase programs for students,” Frelich said.

Budgets are capped at a 3 percent increase, and many departments are requesting budget increases near or at the 3 percent cap. According to Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman, the 3 percent cap is a recommendation set by the UW-System budget office, based on the consumer price index (CPI).

The CPI is an average of the price of a basket of goods compared to a base year price, which presents the inflation rate. Therefore, based on the inflation rate, the UW System arrived at the 3 percent cap.

“What that means for us is the chancellor’s pretty firm,” Heinselman said. “Last year F&F recommended a couple budgets that were over 3 percent and once the chancellor reviewed those, he accepted one of those budgets and the denied the others, and brought them back the 3 percent threshold.”

The 3 percent cap is necessary because people’s earnings have grown 3 percent over the last year, so in order to continue the same level of services, the budgets must increase.

Heinselman said the Dining Services budget is a prime example of how the CPI affects how much money is requested. Food prices change within a year, so Dining Services requests a budget increase to provide the same quality of food available to students. He said the Health Services contract faces a similar issue, but the inflation rate for health care is at about 4 percent, so only asking for a 3 percent increase will mean 1 percent is lost in the budget every year.

Student enrollment leads to less money available, since not as many students are paying segregated fees, which is where the departments receive their funding.

“If student enrollment drops in the fall, that will have no immediate effect on the segregated fees,” Frelich said. “The budgets, however, have made estimations based on decrease in enrollments. With that, if it were to continue to drop, departments would need to look into a variety of things to help maintain their budgets where they are currently.”

Along with the continuing issue of student enrollment and retention, departments are faced with the $1.7 million base budget cut for FY15.

Heinselman said that departments have been asked to support part of the $1.7 million budget cut, and that the University has asked Student Affairs to provide $273,000.

“Where do we find $273,000?” Heinselman asked.

The ways in which Student Affairs can recoup that money is through cutting costs and services or balancing costs and services with a budget increase.

Heinselman also said that departments are being asked to add an overhead charge, which means to tax external revenue. One example is Hunt Arena and the skating school. Starting July 1, UWRiver Falls will collect 10 percent of the money earned from the skating school. In the past, Hunt Area kept all of the money.

F&F has reviewed all budgets and the remainder of the budgets were voted on for recommendation on Tuesday at the Student Senate meeting. “Budget increase have been presented in a very transparent way,” Heinselman said.

“We’re trying to be as upfront and direct as we can through the F&F and Student Senate process.”