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Budget Task Force faces tough decisions

Compensation increases, funding requests among issues being discussed in light of budget limitations.

August 2, 2018

Students walking across Auraria CampusThe Budget Task Force’s work is never easy. But this year’s budget recommendations are likely to be even more challenging than usual.

As of July 27, student enrollment was projected to drop by 1 percent. The decrease is in line with college and university enrollment trends across Colorado. The expected decline, combined with this year’s state-mandated tuition-increase cap of 3 percent, has put extraordinary limitations on the University’s budget.

Among the most difficult decisions facing the BTF is whether to recommend an across-the-board salary-compensation increase for faculty and administrators. Classified staff receive a mandatory increase per state regulations.  

Another consideration is whether to maintain current College and University Professional Association salary averages. During the past few years, the University has ensured that faculty members stay between 94 percent and 100 percent of the CUPA average compared with peers at comparable institutions. Administrators have not been allowed to fall below 92 percent. If MSU Denver were to pause that commitment for a year, it would create savings to be used in other areas.

“Balancing the needs of faculty and administrators with student-focused programs and other high-level university priorities is extremely hard,” says George Middlemist, interim vice president for Administration, Finance and Facilities. “But that’s why we created the task force in the first place: to ensure that we could make hard decisions as a community and make the process as transparent as possible.”

While no recommendations have been finalized, Middlemist says that as the numbers stand, maintaining the CUPA averages and a 1 percent compensation increase for faculty and administrators would leave the University with about $240,000 for all other budget requests, initiatives and priorities. That number wouldn’t allow the University to make major investments in things such as student-support services, which could ultimately improve enrollment and mitigate facing the same situation in the future.     

Middlemist cautions that enrollment numbers could rebound but likely not enough to make a major impact. As a result, the compensation subcommittee has been looking at alternative ways to reward faculty and administrators for their good work outside of base-salary increases. One idea being considered is salary stipends, which draw from one-time funding.

The BTF should wrap up budget recommendations at its Aug. 3 meeting before sharing them with President Davidson. With Davidson’s approval, the recommendations will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its September meeting. 

Stay tuned to the Early Bird for regular updates.

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