Trustees approve budget for 2003-2004
Bowdoin's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget as proposed by the administration at their February 7 meeting. The vote made official the position elimination, program reduction, and tuition increase decisions with which top administrators have been grappling with for the past few weeks.
The FY 2003-2004 budget, prepared by Katy Longley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer and Nigel Bearman, Vice President for Finance and Controller, anticipates revenues totaling $91.3 million for the operating budget. This funding, which comes from sources such as gifts, endowment distribution and tuition and fees, will be split between payroll and operations expenses. The financial aid budget is separate and valued at $14.5 million The total FY 2003-2004 budget is close to $105.8 million.
In order to achieve this balanced budget, Bowdoin decided to raise tuition and fees by five percent for the 2003-2004 academic year and to reduce funding to programs not believed by the administration to make a significant contribution to the priorities of the College. Bowdoin also chose to reduce total payroll by $1.2 million.
Bowdoin employees have known for quite some time that department budgets were tight but many were still surprised by the January 22, 2003 announcement of position eliminations. In early fall of 2002, the Treasurer's Office projected a net operating deficit for the current fiscal year and reductions to expenses were made soon thereafter. In late November of 2002, however, senior administrators realized that significant additional cuts to programming and payroll would have to be made in order to achieve a balanced budget for FY 2003-2004.
The $1.2 million reduction in payroll, which accounts for approximately 54 percent of operational expenses, translates into the elimination of 11 currently vacant positions, the expiration of eight "casual or temporary" positions and the laying off of the equivalent of ten full time administrative and support staff positions. In addition to these reductions, five employees opted to take early retirement and about 18 employees agreed to work reduced hours. After this budget is implemented, the number of full time equivalent employees at the College will drop from 795 to 760.
According to Longley, "employees affected by staff reductions had lengths of service to Bowdoin ranging from one year to over 35 years." She calls the severance package "comparatively generous" at eight weeks pay plus one week for each year of service, with benefit options that would affect the dollar amount.
These employees also were given 30 days notice, a policy which Bill Torrey, Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration and Chief Development Officer, describes as "the humane way to handle the situation because it gives those affected the option to stay or leave earlier if they desire." He emphasized that the program cuts were based on programs and not on performance.
Longley points out that the four week transition period also allows managers some time to "assess the impact of position reductions on their departments and programs and to reorganize functions and responsibilities."
Personnel cuts were made in several areas, including: Admissions, Alumni Relations, Academic Affairs, Athletics, Communications & Public Affairs, Development, Facilities, Educational Technology Center, Computing & Information Services, the Library, and Student Affairs.
The FY 2003-2004 budget proposal explained that these position eliminations would help Bowdoin "operate in financial equilibrium- a significant challenge in an uncertain economy."
Also articulated in the budget proposal were the College's top three priorities as established in September of 2002. These priorities are to maintain and enhance the academic program, to preserve access to a Bowdoin education, (supported by the "need blind" admissions policy) and to uphold Bowdoin's strong sense of community and respect for its faculty and staff.
These priorities in place as guidelines, Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley, Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley, Dean for Academic Affairs Craig McEwen, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jim Miller, and Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration and Chief Development Officer Bill Torrey were given the responsibility of identifying ways to reduce their division's budget. Each department was asked to make cuts, but "particular attention was paid to those divisions that had seen the most growth in recent years," according to Longley.
In Student Affairs, Bradley focused on the potential impact to students when considering cuts. He describes his staff as a "strong team" and points to nine members who took one to two month voluntary work schedule reductions. According to Bradley, "this set of choices enabled us to not have to cut another whole position."
These schedule reductions will take place over the summer and are not expected to impact students during the academic year, though summer planning and project work will be negatively impacted. Student Affairs accepted one early retirement, made one layoff and will leave one vacant position unfilled.
Jeff Ward made the cuts in the Athletics Department, a part of the Student Affairs division, that totaled $200,000, or seven percent of his budget, and resulted in the controversial elimination of the alpine ski team.
Academic Affairs was not immune to cuts despite its intimate connection to the core mission of the College. Charged with protecting academic programs, McEwen eliminated a position in his office and made cuts to the library. He explained that students can expect reduced hours, based on student-use studies conducted by Librarian Sherrie Bergman to go into effect in the fall. Further, some members of library staff will work reduced hours in the summer.
The library will also look to reduce periodical subscriptions and book purchases. Bowdoin has a very strong endowment for the library, which McEwen calls a "crucial sustaining force," but campus scholars may have to rely more heavily on Inter-Library Loan.
McEwen also reduced the budget allocated to bringing adjunct professors to class for the 2003-2004 academic year. He does not believe this will affect students significantly since adjuncts teach courses "on the edge of the curriculum" and students interested in courses that might potentially have been offered could pursue independent studies.
The College cut $850,000 from technology spending, $400,000 from payroll and $450,000 from operational reductions, most significantly affecting Computing and Information Services (CIS). The College plans to bring a chief information officer on board this fiscal year to oversee organization restructuring in this area and improvement to Bowdoin's use of the web.
In Admissions, Miller eliminated one and a half full time positions and spread the rest of his cuts across the printing of publications and to some extent, staff. Administration of the alumni interviewing program, BASIC, will be distributed among staff, likely by region, instead of concentrated to one point person. Miller states, "we're not trying to do less, we're trying to do things more efficiently."
He also emphasized the positives side of budget cuts. He calls them "a challenge and an opportunity," referring to the reevaluations of programs according to priorities of the College that have taken place during the past few weeks.
Torrey believes that his positions and programming reductions in the Development Office and Facilities will have minimal impact on students. The Communications and Public Affairs Office lost personnel, but Torrey does not believe that these cuts will significantly change the way Bowdoin communicates with the on and off campus community.
Alumni Relations lost the equivalent of two full time positions and Torrey says, "our alumni programs will be somewhat affected, as we will no longer be able to serve the alumni career counseling program as we have in the past and we are cutting back on staff support to alumni clubs and their activities." He points out that the Reunion Program was actually strengthened with the addition of a part time position.
Mills is optimistic that all of the initiatives created by alumni over the past few years can continue with creative resource allocation and increased roles for volunteers.
He explained, "alumni just want to be assured that we have maintained our priorities and then they are very, very supportive."
Mills said that trustees during the process were "incredibly responsible and challenging because people asked hard questions and were thoughtful." He describes them as being most concerned about increasing tuition and fees because of the burden that will put on families and the financial aid budget. According to Steve Joyce, Director of Student Aid, the portion of the class of 2007 admitted under Early Decision I alone, will require about $750,000 in aid.
Mills added, "I'm convinced that the priorities that we set out in terms of the academic program and creating access through financial aid for students to come here and then creating a community that is going to be stable enough to allow people to be here for their careers is really the way decisions were made."
The FY 2003-2004 budget provides $400,000 for faculty salary increases, which is expected to keep Bowdoin's current position as one of the top five or six highest paying colleges in the 18-college comparison group. The budget also contains $250,000 for administrative and support staff wage increases and a $100,000 equity pay pool for staff which will be distributed by Human Resources and the senior officers.
The budget provides $110,000 for improvements in classroom audiovisual equipment and $300,000 to upgrade the computer network and infrastructure.
The major maintenance budget will receive $3.6 million to preserve existing structures. Some projects including the purchase of new student furniture and a study of campus lighting and air conditioning needs will be deferred.
Though optimistic about the budget's ability to support core priorities, Mills stated that cuts, especially in the form of layoffs, are never easy to make. He believes that position elimination was harder, and should be, to make them at Bowdoin because of "a tradition of dedication by our employees and by the College to its employees."
He further points out that because Bowdoin isn't "driven by the bottom line, but by quality of education and community," deciding to eliminate positions was especially difficult for administrators. Still, he is "entirely optimistic" about the what the College can do in the future, even though "it will take some time to grow into the choices that were made."
The College does not plan to issue a comprehensive list of reductions to programs and departments, but will instead allow managers to announce changes in services to the community as appropriate.