CWU considering 26 budget reduction ideas

Mitchell Roland, Senior Reporter

In an effort to alleviate a $12 million budget deficit, CWU’s President’s Budget Advisory Committee (PBAC) has proposed 26 different ideas to reduce expenses on campus.

In a memo to CWU President James Gaudino, the PBAC outlined each idea, such as moving to Division III football, suspending the ongoing presidential search and eliminating the aviation flight training program.

The committee met virtually with Gaudino on June 23 to discuss the list and receive feedback from the president on how to proceed. The list in the memo is ranked and was whittled down from a total of 98 ideas the PBAC has considered during their process. The proposals do not each include the estimated savings.

CFO and Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Joel Klucking said just because an idea is on the list, it “doesn’t mean it’s a viable idea.”

“We’re probably only going to get to a handful of things,” Klucking said.

Ideas proposed in the memo

According to Klucking, even before COVID-19, CWU was facing a $10 million dollar budget deficit. The virus has increased that by $2 million. While some steps have been taken to close the $12 million gap, the university will have to decide on how to save more money.

According to the memo, the three guiding principles of the PBAC were that the ideas must have a minimal impact on students and learning, maintain core programs and services without redundancy and protect the long-term health of the university.

The top ranked idea on the list is to “review structure of president’s and all divisional vice presidents’ offices” and “consolidate [associate vice president] positions and administrative staff.”

According to the memo, this would propose savings for the upcoming fiscal year and in the long term, while also maintaining the three guiding principles of the committee.

The memo says these reductions would be consistent with administrative reductions that other universities have done.

The idea on the list that seems to have support is using some of CWU’s reserves to close the budget gap. According to the memo, while this wouldn’t result in short-term or long-term savings, it would meet the guidelines the PBAC set.

“I’m assuming we’ll dip into the reserve,” Gaudino said. “If it’s not raining during a pandemic, what does rain even mean?”

However, while the memo calls for using up to one third of the reserves to “buy planning time,” Gaudino said using this amount may not be the best practice.

“A recommendation that we spend a third of our reserves in each year essentially leaves us with no reserves,” Gaudino said.

The memo suggests eliminating “the most costly athletic programs” while moving the football team to DIII. Gaudino said after being hired as president, he looked into the idea.

To make the move, a conference would have to agree to take CWU’s program. And with the other DIII teams in the area being much smaller schools, they would be apprehensive of playing against a school like CWU. 

“No DIII league will take us. We’re too good,” Gaudino said.

Gaudino said leaving the NCAA altogether and joining the National Associate of Intercolligent Athletes (NAIA) would be a possibility.

Unknown factors in the budget proposal

There are several variables in these proposals, including the reduction of students on campus in the fall.

“That’s the biggest unknown at this point,” Klucking said.

Vice President of Enrollment Josh Hibbard said that currently the university projects a 6% reduction in first-year student enrollment and a 14% reduction in transfer student enrollment for the fall. Hibbard said this reduction is not as drastic as other schools such as Eastern Washington University and Western Washington University have experienced.

HIbbard said he is now working to ensure as many of the 2,500 committed incoming first-year students as possible enroll in fall classes.

Another unknown is who the next CWU president will be, with Gaudino’s impending retirement.

Gaudino announced his retirement in February, and he said he has no intention of staying on longer than his original retirement date of July 31, 2021.

“There will be a new person answering these questions in six months to a year,” Gaudino said.

One idea in the memo is to suspend the search for a new president and instead hire an internal candidate that would be the interim president and would be mentored by Gaudino for a year. Gaudino said while he will pass the idea along to the board of trustees, they are far along in the process and are not likely to support it.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one,” Gaudino said.

While he is not a part of the search committee, Gaudino said based on information he’s received, he anticipates a new president will take over the job before the originally announced date.

Two steps potentially taken already

Klucking said eliminating a planned 3% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for exempt staff and maintaining the current hiring freeze would save $5.7 million. Furloughs and hours reduction for staff this summer, the university has previously announced, will save an additional $1.5 to $2 million dollars.

“That leaves $4.3 million on the table,” Klucking said.