MULTIMEDIA: Webster University projects $12.2 million shortfall in budget


Webster University projected a $12.2 million budget shortfall below its revenue goal for the year. Budget reductions will start immediately, according to an email Webster President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster sent university employees on Jan. 18.

The university plans to make budget reductions in the following areas through June 30, 2013:

—Five percent budget reduction for all budget lines except for salary and utilities.

—Limit new hires.

—Hold on travel and entertainment expenses.

—Cap on new classroom furniture expenses at $150,000.

—Cap on deferred maintenance spending at $140,000.

—Cap new site setup spending at $250,000.

Professor Gwyneth Williams said she wasn’t surprised after she received the email late Friday afternoon. Williams was elected Webster’s Faculty Senate president last semester and will begin the role fall 2013.

“I thought things were maybe sounding a little ominous,” Williams said. “And I don’t mean ominous in that we were going to close our doors, but that budgets may have to be temporarily cut.”

In August 2012, Greg Gunderson, vice president and chief financial officer, told The Journal budget adjustments were possible if the university didn’t make its revenue projections.

“If we are unable to achieve the revenue numbers that we anticipated, then we, as an institution, will examine ways to manage within our budget to deliver the numbers we’ve committed to,” Gunderson said in August.

More than 90 percent of Webster’s revenue comes from tuition fees. Paul Carney, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, told The Journal in August that Webster budgeted for 2,178 undergraduate students — a number Webster missed by approximately 100 students.

Williams said she isn’t happy about the budget cuts, but would rather the university be “forward-thinking.”

Tamara Minley, Webster’s Academic Affairs and Webster Staff Alliance (WSA) chair, said she is unsure of how the budget cuts will affect her.

“No one knows at this present time,” Minley said. “They (the president and provost) didn’t go into the details (in the email) as to how those cuts are going to be disseminated.”

The email also said Gunderson will collaborate with Academic Affairs to recommend execution of reductions to the provost.

“I’m cautiously concerned, I’m not panicked. I’ve been at Webster for 25 years and this has happened before,” Williams said.  “You have years where things go very well and you spend more money, and then years when you kind of tighten up.”

The president and provost’s email said the university is taking steps to grow its revenue. Those steps include the new website, a new marketing campaign, a human resources strategy and discussion with faculty and staff on increasing enrollment.

Williams said she wondered if the hold on travel expenses would affect full-time faculty’s professional development budget. Williams will present a research paper at a conference in late March, but doesn’t believe the hold will affect her attendance because professional development funds are part of faculty’s contracts with the university.

Minley said WSA requested a meeting with the WSA Board, Stroble and Schuster to better understand the cuts and how the cuts will affect staff at Webster. WSA’s main concern is providing the staff with enough information and background regarding the budget cuts.

“We just want enough information and enough research from the president and provost’s office so that we know what to do to move forward,” Minley said. “Until we get those answers, we won’t know.”

The president and provost’s email, in part, stated:

“When these (2015 Stretch Goals) growth targets are not achieved, revenues fall short of the funds necessary to match the needed investments we have made in people, facilities, programs, services and operations.

That requires targeted mid-year reductions to ensure effective stewardship of funds.”

Williams said it seems that the cuts don’t directly harm individuals.

“It looks like they are trying to hold expenses that they think will have the least amount of impact on students — which I’m not saying it won’t have any impact,” Williams said.

Jan 18 Budget Shortfall Email by WebsterJournal

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