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Email from President Davidson
May 6, 2020
Dear MSU Denver community,
In an effort to remain as transparent as possible in the budget-planning process, I am writing to share the latest update on fiscal year 2020-21 at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
I want to start this message by stating very clearly that no decisions have been made about the FY20-21 budget yet. Our community has shared many great suggestions for cost efficiencies and there have been robust conversations about those ideas, including at a deep-dive meeting with leaders from across the University yesterday. But no decisions will be made regarding systemic budget cuts until the Board of Trustees meeting in June.
That said, we continue to anticipate a difficult economic year ahead. The latest news from the state suggests we may need to absorb a 17% reduction in state funding. That devastating cut, combined with a projected enrollment decline for both summer and fall, means that leadership will need to consider every option available to address a likely shortfall of $14 million.
This process will not be easy or pain free, but we are committed to exploring every possible tool at our disposal to bridge this gap; while also weighing the impact on faculty, staff and students. Our first step was to ask vice presidents and deans in each area to identify potential cuts for FY20-21. Thanks to their work, we were able to identify $6 million that could be cut to help with the shortfall. These cuts affect everything from travel budgets and vacancy savings to changes in workloads and class sizes. But as painful as these adjustments are, they will still not be enough to make up the likely shortfall.
The next level of cuts being evaluated relate to personnel, which is 70% of our budget. After extensive discussions with vice presidents, deans and representatives from faculty and staff, the finance team, in coordination with Human Resources, is running the numbers on various tiered pay-cut and furlough scenarios, as well as options for early retirements. The hope is to avoid significant layoffs; but until we have more clarity on our enrollment and state funding, such promises cannot be made.
On May 12, Colorado’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting and Legislative Council staff will present a new economic forecast. At that point, we should have a better idea of where we stand on funding, as the state tries to balance its budget to compensate for a significant loss of revenue. The state’s ultimate decisions will not only affect our own FY20-21 budget but may impact PERA-contribution changes that are set to go into effect July 1.
I’ve shared this timeline of MSU Denver’s budget decision-making process at my briefings this spring. I want to call specific attention to the Board of Trustees meeting, scheduled for early June. The Board will ultimately make final decisions on our budget, based on the recommendations of leadership. Those decisions will be announced by June 15.
I understand that an email like this will undoubtedly cause some anxiety in our community. And I wish I had better news. But I would rather not downplay the situation or otherwise hide the numbers from the MSU Denver community, only to surprise you all with difficult decisions in the coming weeks. This level of transparency has been fundamental to our decision-making, as it has allowed so many of you to engage and submit ideas. I am immensely grateful to all of you who have supported this process.
I believe wholeheartedly that we will get through this and come out stronger on the other side. I ask for your patience and trust as we weather this perfect storm of challenges together.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.