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During Governor Doyle’s presentation of his 2009-11 biennial budget proposal Tuesday night, he shared how Wisconsin will deal with this year’s (2008-09) $600-million budget shortfall.  (Please see the Governor’s budget address for a complete transcript.)  As reported earlier, due to excellent fiscal planning and management, UW Oshkosh is prepared to meet our institution’s share of the 2008-09 budget lapse without seriously impacting unit level 2008-09 budgets.

With respect to the UW System’s 2009-11 system-wide biennial budget reduction of $174 million over two years, we are awaiting details regarding UW Oshkosh’s share of the budget reduction.  (Please see the UW System press release for a broad overview of the Governor’s UW System budget items.)  President Reilly and the UW System staff are analyzing the Governor’s proposed 2009-11 biennial budget to determine the specific impact on each respective institution.  The Chancellors and System staff will meet Friday, February 20, to discuss that initial analysis as well as strategies for meeting the challenges of a budget cut.  We should have a better understanding of this potential budget impact on or before February 27, 2009.

I am very pleased with Governor Doyle’s plan to significantly enhance state financial aid to, among other things, exempt students with family incomes of less than $60,000 from the tuition increase.  The increased State aid, coupled with the large increase in Federal financial aid programs such as Pell Grants, will be of great value to the students who most need that financial support.  While I understand the Governor’s expectation for the UW universities to implement the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, the size of the budget cuts will seriously hamper, if not prevent, serving additional students.  Under this proposed budget, maintaining the existing enrollment levels will be very challenging and will result in larger class sizes.  As the Governor says, “Staying even is the new increase.”

Given the Governor’s high priority for education at all levels, I remain confident that we can work with him and the Legislature to figure out a way to meet some of the Growth Agenda goals by reducing some of the budget cuts.  Therefore, we will, in good faith, complete all of this year’s Growth Agenda faculty tenure-track searches to help meet the demand caused by serving an additional 1,000 students.  If we can find a way—with the Governor’s help—we may be able to increase access for a few additional students.

That said, and given the size of the state’s deficit, I also understand that we must play a role in addressing the projected $5.0-billion plus shortfall for the 2009-11 biennial budget.  Simply put, we need to play a significant role in the “budget deficit solution” as well as helping to establish future solutions for a strong, sustainable economy and an even stronger, vibrant environment for the health and well-being of all residents.

UW Oshkosh began taking steps last October to help prepare for the 2009-11 budget and related budget cuts:

  • Our administrative leaders began budget planning preparation including campus-wide travel restrictions as well as a “soft freeze” on personnel searches with the exception of Growth Agenda tenure-track faculty searches and other critical positions.
  • A campus-wide budget forum to discuss a budget PowerPoint presentation was held on Monday, October 27.  (Please review the memos of October 16 and October 30, 2008 as well as the PowerPoint presentation for important background information related to budget priorities, budget development principles and fund-based legal restrictions).
  • Budget planning discussions and updates have been part of all of the regular one-on-one meetings between the Chancellor and governance leaders.
  • U-Plan (University Planning, Leadership and Needs Council) meetings, comprised of governance leaders and the Chancellor’s staff, have also discussed budget planning as new information emerged.

While we will do all we can to continue to create additional efficiencies, we must remind all internal and external stakeholders that Wisconsin universities are already ranked among the “five most productive state systems … of higher education relative to their resources” (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems).  The UW System and its universities already have the lowest administrative costs in the nation.

As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide information related to the budget and how we might work together to identify additional fiscal efficiencies while maintaining quality, affordable and accessible education for Wisconsin residents.

  • We will schedule additional meetings this spring for administrative and campus governance leaders.
  • We will also schedule another campus-wide budget forum as soon as the details related to the UW Oshkosh budget challenges become available.
  • We will launch a web site to obtain feedback from anyone who wishes to provide advice and ideas for helping meet our budget challenges.

As we prepare our budgetary response to the Governor’s 2009-11 biennial budget and while that budget proposal is being discussed by the Wisconsin legislature, we will also continue to strongly advocate for the highest priority possible for the UW System universities.

I greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and willingness to help meet the difficult challenges ahead as we do everything we can to provide our students with an excellent education under very challenging circumstances.

Changes to Wisconsin Normal Budget Planning Cycle — 2009-2011 State Biennial Budget

Spring 2008 — Department of Administration provides biennial budget instructions to state agencies.

August 2008 — UW System Board of Regents takes final action on biennial budget request document.

September 2008; Contingency Budget Reduction Plan Due: Nov. 17, 2008 — UW System Board of Regents biennial budget request document is submitted to Department of Administration.

October 2008 — Governor’s Call for filing Contingency Budget Reduction Plan.

September 2008 to February 2009 —  Development of Governor’s budget.

February 2009 — Governor presents his budget to the Legislature.

February to June 2009 — Joint Finance Committee (JFC) and Legislature work on budget.

July 1, 2009 — Biennial Budget is enacted (typically). Possible Governor’s vetoes.