Board of Regents has budget uncertainties

Peter Newman

Budget is a frustrating word for many currently and Washburn is no exception.

The Washburn University budget faces challenges. The economic downturn has impacted budget since some of Washburn’s revenue is derived from city sales tax.

Bob Storey, a member of Washburn’s Board of Regents, knows that at this point, it’s unable to tell how much money the university will bring in due to sales tax.

“We receive about 22 percent from sales tax and that’s something you don’t know until it’s reported in early fall,” said Storey.

Since sales tax, and student enrollment are unknown for the coming year, the budget has projections on what those will bring in. Student enrollment brings in revenue as tuition and fees. The importance of enrollment is also a big concern for the Board of Regents.

The board is always conscious of enrollment, Storey said.  If enrollment is down, then Washburn has to look at how much money was lost.

One of the biggest challenges universities has is retention.  Like all other schools, Washburn is rated nationally in regard to the percentage of students that graduate.  Students that come and leave without graduating also impact tuition and fees.  

“Retention is one of the biggest things out there,” said Storey. 

Where enrollment will be in a year or two years is a consideration for the budget, especially when tuition and fees account for about 47 percent of the revenue to Washburn.

Heavy snowfall like last season and the extra snow removal maintenance that accompanies it can take a toll on the budget but Storey said the Board of Regents had a good feel for potential expenses and builds that into the budget.  

“That’s not usually a problem.Your decline in revenue is more important than your additional expenses,” said Storey.

There are a few choices used to tighten the budget’s belt, such as no pay increase for last three years, raising tuition, early retirement plan, and not filling positions that open up at the university.  

“One thing that we didn’t do and always try not to do is layoffs,” said Storey.  “[Employees are] part of the Washburn family as we call it.

Washburn University’s budget is about $75 million and Washburn has an auxiliary of about six million.  It also a reserve fund over nine million dollars and the Board of Regents has a contingency fund of over a million dollars.

“That is for rainy days and we have rainy days,” said Storey.  “There’s a national average, of probably a school our size with our budget, four to five million should be held in reserve, and we have nine.  We keep it pretty safe.”

The Board encourages students to get involved.

“We would like to have [students] come to our board meetings, particularly budget meetings and ask questions,” said Storey.