Despite bad news, we will persevere and flourish

Here’s the good news about the state budget: The long slog toward finalizing our 2015-17 budget is nearly over, with the Legislature’s approval of the document this week and today’s action by the Board of Regents finalizing the UW System budget.  Governor Walker is expected to sign the budget by the end of the week.

Here’s the bad budget news: We will be feeling the impact of the two-year, $10.6 million state aid reduction imposed just on UW-Stout for years to come.  A table showing the annual budget reductions for each UW institution is available at http://www.uwstout.edu/statebudget/upload/base-reductions_p25.pdf.

There really is no honest way to brighten this picture.  This is a budget that will cause a lot of shared pain across campus, in every department, unit, office, etc.  We already are seeing many valuable and hard-working colleagues leaving and more will join the exodus.  

We have distributed to our faculty and staff specific budget-reduction targets for departments, units and offices.  It will be important for directors and their budget managers to work with others in their areas to make the best decisions on how to meet these targets.  I also ask that everyone involved in making these day-to-day budget decisions keep the Strategic Planning Group’s budget principles in mind, especially the need to protect the integrity and quality of instruction.

We also are processing signed agreements with our employees who were offered and decided to accept an agreement to retire under the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP).  Some 61 employees were accepted into this program and, to date, 32 employees have returned signed contracts and more are expected. Although we don’t know the exact amount yet, these VSIP agreements should provide significant long-term operational savings for the university.

Finally, we will be working on long-term strategies for stabilizing our financial situation, including an increased effort on fundraising activities, as well as ensuring that our academic and other areas are organized as efficiently and effectively as possible.

I know this budget process has been filled with anxiety, frustrations and other emotions for many, many people on campus.  I am in that group.  However, when everything looks bleak, I try to remember everything that UW-Stout has going for it: strong enrollment; innovative and appealing undergraduate and graduate programs that are growing in popularity; and most of all, the most dedicated employees I have had the privilege of working with.

So we will persevere, and we will flourish.  We will celebrate our 125th anniversary as an institution next year, confident in the notion that we have kept James Huff Stout’s vision alive through thick and thin, including the largest state aid reduction in our history.

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