CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 19, 2015 – As Kenneth W. Dobbins closes out his 16-year tenure as president of Southeast Missouri State University this month, it is fitting that a process he inspired some 24 years ago as the University’s then vice president of finance and administration was the focal point of budgetary considerations at the final Board of Regents meeting in which he participated.
The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents today approved a $111.4 million operating budget and $36.6 million in auxiliary operating budgets, both for fiscal 2016 which begins July 1. The budget was presented to the Board today after a semester of deliberations by the University’s Budget Review Committee (BRC), an innovative body pioneered by Dobbins who leaves behind a legacy of sound fiscal management.
Budget Review Committee is composed of 30 individuals who represent all major interest groups on campus and is chaired by Vice President for Finance and Administration Kathy Mangels. She says Dobbins launched BRC in 1991, modeling it after a similar process he was familiar with from his previous employer, Kent State University.
BRC annually conducts budget hearings, receives divisional and institutional budget development requests, and recommends funding for budget proposals, plans and priorities. As in past years, the fiscal 2016 budget approved today sprang from this process.
During the spring 2015 semester, the BRC developed and recommended to Dobbins the budget approved today, which includes a 1.43 percent increase in state appropriations for fiscal 2016 equating to a $669,042 increase for Southeast, less a three percent state withholding. Because Southeast met all five performance funding indicators established with the Missouri Department of Higher Education for the fiscal 2016 appropriation process, Southeast received a 1.19 percent appropriations increase of $556,200. Southeast also received an additional .24 percent or $112,842 in appropriations based on a new funding formula designed to compensate institutions for increased enrollment. Mangels says Dobbins’ work with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE), the Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE) and the Governor’s Office was instrumental in this new funding formula being implemented.
According to Mangels, the $111.4 million operating budget includes a faculty base merit increase of 1.3125 percent and a 0.1875 percent salary pool to fund post-professorial merit increases, and a 1.3125 percent increase to the overload and part-time faculty compensation levels. The budget also includes a staff base merit salary increase of 1.5 percent for administrative/professional staff, clerical/technical/service staff, bargaining units and graduate assistant stipends. Mangels said the BRC considered these increases to not only meet inflationary increases but also maintain the movement the institution has made to bring faculty and staff salaries up to market median in keeping with recommendations from a salary equity study approved by the Board in October 2013.
The budget approved by the Regents includes estimated income of $45.9 million in state appropriations which accounts for 41.2 percent of the University’s total operating budget, Mangels said. The budget also includes estimated income of $62.7 million in student fees, accounting for 56.2 million of Southeast’s total operating budget and $2.9 million from other sources, accounting for 2.6 percent of the total budget.
The Regents also approved the fiscal 2016 operating budgets for the University’s “auxiliary” units, totaling $36.6 million. These self-supporting operations include such units as Southeast Textbook Services, the Show Me Center, University Center, Telecommunications, Residence Life, KRCU-FM National Public Radio and the Student Recreation Center.
Each year, the BRC considers University revenue expectations along with expenditure needs and recommends a balanced general operating budget to the President, who then makes final recommendations to the Board of Regents, Mangels said. The committee receives divisional and institutional budget development requests and recommends funding for budget proposal plans and priorities.
The divisional and institutional budget requests are initiated at the department or unit level and progress through a divisional review process before being presented to the Budget Review Committee, she said. All requests must identify the relationship of the request to the University’s strategic plan.
The process is unique, Mangels said, in that many universities’ budgets are developed by the vice president for finance working in collaboration with a budget director who ultimately makes the annual budget recommendation to the university president.
Southeast’s “process works very well, as it allows for a succession of meetings where all requesting units are allowed to bring their various proposals to the Budget Review Committee,” said Dr. Willie Redmond, a longstanding member of BRC, faculty associate in the Office of the Provost and professor in the Department of Economics and Finance. “Then after all requests have been made, the committee members are allowed a period of time to consult with the constituents that they represent, and only then does the committee reconvene to do a final evaluation of those items and ‘balance’ the budget.
Another longstanding BRC Member Kevin Dickson, professor of management and director of the Jane Stephens Honors program, echoed Redmond’s sentiments, adding, “This develops greater understanding of the needs of different parts of campus and emphasizes the common purpose of creating an environment to educate our students at Southeast. Committee members have been respectful and have worked together to find solutions during difficult financial times.”
The Higher Learning Commission’s Quality Checkup Report in September 2012 commended Southeast’s Budget Review Committee process.
“The Budget Review process stands out as a significant proactive move by the University and its leadership in the face of continuing state funding issues and state mandates in education performance,” the team wrote. “The process is transparent and provides opportunities for Southeast to incorporate the needs of employees into budgetary planning.”
Dickson added that the BRC’s greatest accomplishment has been the ability of the committee, under the leadership of Mangels, “to discover innovative solutions to the varied financial budget questions faced by Southeast over the years by analyzing the needs of the budget, gathering information from campus and openly discussing possibilities.”
Redmond said, “The greatest challenge that we have faced has also led to the greatest accomplishment. Even though we have experienced periods of declining state funding, we have still been able to keep the costs of attending Southeast down to a very affordable level for our students.”