Posted March 2, 2011

Temple prepares for cuts to state appropriation

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s fiscal-year 2012 budget proposes an unprecedented reduction of more than 50 percent in the state appropriation for Temple University and its fellow state-related institutions, Pitt, Penn State and Lincoln.

A cut this dramatic would reduce last year’s $178.5 million appropriation, or 21 percent of Temple’s operating budget, to $82.5 million (a 53.8 percent cut), or 9.6 percent of the budget. As a state-related institution, Temple’s major sources of revenue are state support and tuition dollars.

While it was widely expected that the governor would propose a smaller state appropriation for Temple, the magnitude of the cut was a surprise, and would radically alter our relationship with the Commonwealth, said Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr., Temple’s senior vice president of government, community and public affairs.

In anticipation of continuing declines in state support and fallout from the economic recession, university officials have worked diligently to carefully manage the budget, said Anthony E. Wagner, executive vice president, Temple’s chief financial officer and treasurer.

“Still, the proposed budget will require us to scrutinize all expenses, and consider everything across the board, including tuition, programs and jobs,” said Lawrence.

State support for higher education and the proportion of Temple’s budget it comprises have been in decline for more than three decades. In 1972, for example, two-thirds of the university’s budget came from the state.

The first and most critical step in carefully managing the university’s finances was permanently reducing the operating budget by 5 percent, or $40 million, starting in 2010. That year the university also froze hiring and travel as well as salaries for non-bargaining employees. One-time stimulus funds were used solely for one-time expenses rather than recurring expenses.

“Ours was a more aggressive cut than that taken by many others, but we looked at the long-term trajectory of what was happening in both the federal and state governments and saw that this was the beginning of the problem, not the end of the problem,” said Wagner.

Since then, Temple has continued to be conservative in its budget planning and management. This year, a university-wide process was initiated so that faculty, staff and students could collaborate and think about ways to control expenditures and increase revenues. And for the past several months, the finance staff has been planning for various scenarios in anticipation of the governor’s budget proposal.

Going forward, administrative leaders plan to work closely with the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate’s Budget Review Committee and school and college deans to plan next year’s university budget. Typically, a university budget — including a final decision on tuition — cannot be finalized until the state General Assembly has passed its budget.

“As always, our first priority is maintaining the academic quality we have promised to our students,” said Wagner.

The university also will continue to make its case that investment in higher education is incredibly important even during difficult economic times.

The budget proposal will now go to the Pennsylvania House and Senate for hearings. Later this month, President Ann Weaver Hart will join the presidents of Pennsylvania’s other state-related schools to testify before the appropriations committees in Harrisburg.