2011-13 Budget Request

June 9, 2010

Colleagues:

Perhaps, like me, you are getting rather tired of dealing with budgets. And, with messages from me about budgets. But, I must write you once again because we have budgets ... and budgets ... and budgets.

Past messages have concerned the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year and how we would meet the additional reductions recently added by the legislature.

While all that was going on, we were also building the budget request for the next (2011-13) biennium. That began this winter at the planning unit level. Resulting proposals were shared with you on the web, budget presentations were audiocast and archived, and there have been valuable discussions within University Planning and Resource Council.

We had planned to have a draft 2011-13 budget request ready for your review today. That has not happened.

Why? We were following the typical pattern for building a budget. But, these are not typical times. As discussions took place with UPRC and others, it became obvious that our usual approach will not work. At least, not satisfactorily so. There were at least three deficiencies:

  1. By all accounts, 2011-13 is going to be another tough budget. The state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) is projecting a $3 billion shortfall. We were seeking ideas for initiatives, though, believing that we need to be ready, as things turn around, with the ideas – and relationships, politics, facts, details – in place to move ahead. We need to look ahead three biennia but our process only goes one biennium at a time. So, we need to expand the budget process “vertically” through a longer time span.
  2. Some of the ideas brought forward do require state support and would be appealing down in Olympia. Others fit better with other potential areas of support: the comprehensive fundraising campaign, the federal agenda, institutional grant support from foundations, internal reallocation, entrepreneurial/cost recovery and fee-for-service effort, ... The usual budget approach considers only state appropriations and so is far too narrow a focus when it comes to figuring out how we can best support initiatives. So we need to expand our budget processes (and our thinking) “horizontally” across multiple sources.
  3. We have long had a strategic plan that has several strengths but that provides limited guidance during times such as this. We are scheduled to revise that strategic plan. Getting to the content of that plan is a big challenge. In addition, there is an ancillary question as big: just what kind of approach to strategic planning will be helpful to us all in formulating our decision making on budgets as well as on other matters?

So, we will have a budget request for 2011-13. We have to have one for the Board of Trustees to consider in August. It gets sent to Olympia in September. Ours will draw on selected planning unit ideas in proposing some additional “recovery funding” – funding for Western’s recovery so that we can continue to advance Washington’s recovery. But, given the state’s continuing fiscal challenges, what we propose today as a budget request will likely have only tangential connection to the realities we will deal with next spring when the legislature adopts an actual operating budget for the next biennium. Rather than put a great deal of effort into what is going to be a somewhat pro forma document, we are proposing to concentrate on the longer term, engaging the best thinking we each have to offer in addressing the three challenges noted above.

This will begin tomorrow afternoon at a meeting of the Board of Trustees. Our Board uses Thursday afternoons of their meetings for discussion of issues likely to require action in the future. This Thursday, the discussion will surround the questions of how we can best expand our budget thinking and improve the strategic quality of our decision making.

The Board is also departing from the usual format for those Thursday meetings. The Board is seeking a discussion and for that purpose deans, vice presidents, leaders of governance groups, and Trustees will gather, intermingled around a table.

Background materials have been prepared for those participating in the roundtable discussion. I would encourage you to take a glance at the materials as they draw on many sources of information about future possible directions for Western. These are sources of stimulating information but nothing conclusive for there is absolutely no scripting for the discussion. Just the expectation of creative, critical, and challenging thinking.

As with all Board meetings, this discussion will be audiocast. I encourage you to tune in at 3:05 p.m. Thursday. The audiocast can be reached from this link. The audio will also be archived.

The Board would want me to emphasize that Thursday’s discussion is a beginning. Do not expect closure on anything. The topics being considered Thursday will continue to be discussed in the months ahead and on into next fall. And so, do expect further opportunities to help think through our strategic priorities and the implications that then follow for a budget, broadly defined across time and source.

And, I know: enough already on budget. Let’s not forget to have a great summer!

Bruce

Page Updated 11.27.2013