College of Veterinary Medicine

From the Dean

Some News About the State Budget

by Bryan 18. September 2009 08:23

Last spring and early summer seem far away now, and the budget cuts that figured so prominently in the news are now a bit off the radar (although in certain areas we are feeling the effects of being stretched very thin by the impact of cuts).

It is pretty clear that most economists think that although the recession has bottomed we are in for an extended period of fairly flat economic activity, and then an extended period of slow growth.  Thus, state government revenues have stopped their free-fall, but they will be slow to come back.

This scenario has been playing out in the state of Washington, as evidenced by the most recent revenue forecast.  Things have really stabilized compared to a year ago, but we are not out of the woods.  On the other hand, things have not worsened to the point that a special legislative session is needed to address the further drop in revenue.  Nonetheless, when the legislature convenes early next year, they will undoubtedly have additional budget cuts on their mind.  These will not begin to approach the size of cuts the university had to take going into this new fiscal year, but any additional cut will obviously further challenge us.  If we do have to take additional cuts I know we'll work through it well, just as we did last year. 

Compared to the cuts other units on campus had to make this year we were blessed and are doing very well, all things considered...and I remain eternally grateful for all the good people we have and the good work that we do.

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Another Bit of Budget News

by Bryan 22. June 2009 14:59

The June revenue forecast for the State of Washington was released last Thursday.

It shows an estimated further decline of revenue of $482 million through June 30, 2011 (i.e., through next biennium).  The governor has asked for continued caution in purchase of equipment, travel, and in hiring -- see fuller comment here.

What this means for us is the following:  1) We are not going to be officially asked (at least not at this time) for 2% additional budget give back; however, I think it prudent to assume that sometime this next year we may have to do so.  2) We still need to limit travel costs -- even though the online approval system will still be eliminated, as previously planned, as of July 1, 2009, we need to continue to be very judicious in approving state-funded travel and be creative in reducing the cost of our travel when travel is necessary. 3) We will still need to carefully consider how we replace position vacancies and may choose to leave some positions unfilled in anticipation of possible further cuts; I don't think we'll have to do this on a large scale, but I will ask our leaders to continue to be creative with reorganization or other efficiencies when deciding whether to seek to replace a vacant position.

At this time, our budget changes for the next biennium are in place and we are being asked for no further budget reductions at this time even though the revenue forecast has slipped a bit more.  However, we must continue to be cautious with our funds and save money where we can on personnel, travel, and other efficiencies as we move into this next fiscal year.

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A Quick Budget Note

by Bryan 19. June 2009 04:41

Many of you are aware that the WSU response to the legislative budget cut to our state budget was finalized on Tuesday.  More details can be found here.

I remain very pleased that our college was spared significant cuts.  What cuts we did take will cause us to collectively stretch a little harder to meet our goals and commitments, but I'm confident that we can do that.  As always, I remain grateful for the dedication and commitment of all of our faculty, staff, and students.

As I've noted before, although the current budget crisis has been handled, and we are poised to move ahead strongly, the university leadership will continue to examine the university's priorities and there may be additional program adjustments, eliminations, consolidations, and the like.  In this process of better defining our role as a university, I remain confident that our college will not only maintain, but enhance its contributions to moving the university ahead.

Thanks for all your help in getting us to this point, and thanks in advance for all the help I know you'll provide in helping us keep trucking on.

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More Room for Progress

by Bryan 30. April 2009 12:52

The College of Veterinary Medicine has long been planning for new space to alleviate over-crowding and to allow us to abandon some truly awful research space.

The legislative session that just ended was very good to us in this regard.  Two important projects were approved by the legislature.  I say "approved" rather than "funded" because the state actually did not appropriate the funds, but rather approved the university to issue bonds to borrow the money needed for design and construction of two projects.  These are:

1) $6.2 million in funding to put toward the $10 million match we need for the $25 million Gates Foundation gift.  This gets us much closer to construction of the $35 million dollar Global Animal Health Phase I facility that we need for the new School for Global Animal Health to flourish.

2) Almost $96 million in funding to design and construct the Veterinary Medical Research Building that will be the next building in WSU's Research and Education Complex.  This will mostly benefit neuroscience and muscle biology research programs of the VCAPP Department.

This is an outstanding result for our college and good news indeed in these times where it seems that most of the news is bad.  Not only will these programs be advanced, but the overall result will be repurposing of existing space that will benefit the whole college.

I want to comment about the funding mechanism.  The university will borrow the funds to build these buildings and pay off the bonds with income from our land grants (we are a land grant university, after all).  This is a creative and thoughtful move by the legislature, not only because of the tough budget times, but because even in good economic times it is a way to accelerate acquisition of space needed for growing research programs at a research university.  Inevitably, some will think it is inappropriate to build buildings when the operating budget is getting cut, with layoffs as a result.  In fact, the legislature transferred about $750 million from capital budget to operating budget to minimize the operating cut.  This left them with virtually no capital budget.  The university can borrow funds to build buildings, but not to operate.  So, by authorizing us to do this, the legislature did minimize the operating budget cuts in the state, but still allowed us to move ahead with borrowed funds.  In so doing, they not only helped us keep growing and moving ahead to be stronger when the economy recovers, this $130 million in construction will provide a tremendous boost to the local economy over the next 3 to 4 years.

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Latest Budget News

by Bryan 7. April 2009 08:21

There is actually not much to report about what WSU's budget will look like this next biennium.

The House and Senate are very far apart and have until April 26 to conference out their differences into a single budget to send to the Governor.  Our best hope in higher education is that the Governor will prevail on the legislature to cut us less, more along the 12% she proposed in her budget last December.  (Note that she has now proposed 14% tuition hikes for each of the next two years).

The three very different scenarios proposed by the Governor, Senate, and House are summarized in a table below the jump ("More").  In case you missed it, President Floyd's recent letter to the WSU community is here.

Because of the vast differences in budget scenarios, and the timeline of the legislature, I do not expect any definitive word about our college's cut until closer to May 1, which is now the target date (plus or minus a couple of days) for the university to roll out it's full budget draft.

I'll keep you posted if things change between now and then.

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House and Senate Budgets Released

by Bryan 31. March 2009 18:06

UPDATE (11:21 am 4/1/2009):  For more information see this WSU Olympia report.

Yesterday the Washington Senate released its budget proposal, which called for a 20 percent cut to WSU, with some offset from Federal stimulus funds to bring the net cut down to about 17.1%.  (These stimulus funds are only good for two years, so if the economy isn't turning around significantly in two years, it leaves another problem for later.)

Today the House of Representatives released its draft budget.  It calls for a 29% cut.  This certainly caught me off guard; although news has been scanty, I did not hear anything to make me think it would be that big.

The two chambers have until April 26 to negotiate their differences and send a budget to the governor.  We'll just have to see how things work out in the House-Senate conference.  I also do not know what this means about timing of knowing what our cuts will be here within the university.  These cuts are steeper than the 18% that had been used in planning, although the Senate is pretty close.  Here's hoping the Senate prevails in negotiations with the House.  I'll keep you posted.  I think things will start to happen faster now.

This Seattle Times story has a good summary if you are interested in more reading.  Note that one of the big differences between House and Senate budgets is that the House protects K-12 education much more and hammers higher education, whereas the Senate had steeper cuts to K-12.  What a choice!

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Latest Washington Revenue Forecast

by Bryan 19. March 2009 11:55

As I noted in my budget post earlier this week, the Washington state revenue forecast was to be released today.  Here's the bottom line clipped out of a story in the Seattle Times:

More bad budget news out of Olympia: State revenue is expected to be down another $552 million, according this morning's forecast.
That would put the overall budget shortfall, the way Senate budget writers calculate it, at around $9 billion between now and 2011.
If you take emergency state reserves, the federal stimulus money recently approved by Congress and some other recent belt-tightening moves into account, the real problem the Legislature has to solve is around $4 billion. That figure includes leaving several hundred million dollars in reserve.

The full story is here.  If you want more nitty-gritty details, you can look at the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council summary of their forecast; or if you really want fine details, the full meal deal is here.

The Washington State Senate and House will likely release their budget drafts next week, taking into account this latest forecast.  We'll know more then about what may be in store for four-year higher education.

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Budget Update

by Bryan 18. March 2009 06:56

Over the last month there has been considerable discussion among the deans, Vice Presidents, Provost, and President of how WSU will handle its budget cuts.  You may have seen some discussion of this in the local newspapers last week, including this one in The Daily Evergreen.  These discussions have been based on the plans all deans and vice presidents submitted for how they would deal with cuts of up to 20%.  Our college's plan was developed by assembling plans from the different units across the college.

I do not have anything to report yet about specific cuts, but wanted to make a few general comments as to where things stand. 

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Washington's Economy (or lack thereof)

by Bryan 6. March 2009 16:42

I wanted to pass along some comments I recently heard about where the state's economy is headed in general.  Even though this information doesn't address the more immediate budget situation directly, I thought it was useful general information to pass along.  This information comes in a round about way from Arun Raha, Washington State's Chief Economist.  (Dr. Raha is a Cougar, by the way.)

Dr. Raha anticipates that the Federal stimulus bill will save or create 75,000 jobs in Washington through tax cuts, transfers, and infrastructure spending.  He does not, however, expect to see much in the way of a turnaround for more than a year.  (How much of this Federal stimulus will translate into direct benefit to us in higher education remains to be seen, by the way.)

He expects the state to come out of the recession (i.e., stop declining) in the 3rd quarter of this year, and then expects the 4th quarter to remain flat.  Growth will then start in early 2010 and we should see more momentum later in 2010 and on into early 2011.

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The Importance of Small Budget Savings

by Bryan 11. February 2009 07:31

When contemplating budget cuts at the upper end of the contingency plans we have been asked to develop (up to $3.2 million for next year, or 20%, of our state budget), one quickly realizes that many things will change.  One also tends to wonder (at least I have) how important small changes can be if we were to take a cut that large.

In a word,... IMPORTANT.

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