“We had talked about a deficit of $3.2 million in the fall,” explained Jacqueline DiStefano, SUNY New Paltz’s vice president in charge of finance. Right now, the college is looking at a $6.3 million deficit, for which the college still needs to find a way to cut more than $4 million.
Gov. Cuomo’s proposed executive budget would translate to a cut of 9.6 percent throughout the four-year schools in the State University of New York system, which includes SUNY New Paltz.
What the leaders of the college don’t know is how the state Legislature will change or modify the governor’s proposal or when that will happen. They also don’t know how SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and the other top dogs in the university system will prioritize those now-dwindled resources.
“There may be some reallocation of resources,” DiStefano said.
That $6.3 million will come out of the main funds that keep SUNY New Paltz afloat. That includes tuition plus money from the state. “This is reflective of what we call our core instructional budget,” she said.
Right now, the college administration will focus on potential cuts or savings, which could come from a slew of places:
• Consolidating administrative and secretarial support jobs. Anything that’s redundant or that could be done by just one support staffer will become a reality.
• Reducing the costs of utilities used throughout campus. SUNY New Paltz has made some moves with saving on power bills and the like, but they’d like to see more.
• A hiring freeze of new professors. Right now, SUNY New Paltz is in the process of hiring 11 new professors. The work to hire those people would continue, however, new efforts to find more staff could be a place that gets cut. “We will have a conversation about how our hiring moves beyond that,” DiStefano said of the current 11-position search process.
• Consolidation of programs regionally in SUNY and what courses are offered at the graduate level would be investigated.
• Anything supported by fees paid by students, extra to tuition, could potentially see a hike. SUNY New Paltz administrators are looking at the feasibility of changing those fees and how much money it would produce.
• Not filling empty job positions is another way the college is thinking about saving money.
• Cutting or suspending existing programs. Some classes currently offered might be on the chopping block, depending on what the administration’s research finds. “Given the magnitude of the cuts we’re talking about, it’s highly likely that there could be more cuts to programs,” DiStefano said.
• Partnerships with other SUNY campuses will be explored. Potentially, partnering with another college or community college in the system could save SUNY New Paltz some money.
On top of those cuts or consolidations, the college also has a few ideas about where they could get an influx of new money. “We’re not just looking at cost savings. We’re looking at new revenue-generating ideas,” she said.
• Course fees could be instituted.
• Normally, students at SUNY New Paltz take something like 15 or 16 credit hours each semester. Administrators are looking at charging students an “excessive credits” fee if they take more than that. David Eaton, the vice president of enrollment, said that idea has some risks to it. Students taking more than their average fill of courses are usually self-motivated students working on double majors.
“We’re not certain at this point that this is a good idea,” Eaton said, adding that they didn’t want to create a disincentive or de facto punishment for good students.
One part of the problem with budgeting this year has been the administration’s inability to communicate exactly how little money there really is left available. At one point during the meeting, College Council Chairman Kenneth Abt asked Interim President Donald Christian if people on campus really understood that reality.
Christian responded by saying that the idea that SUNY New Paltz really didn’t have much money to work with was varied.
A recent report by the data-collection firm CoreLogic showed that about 23 percent of America’s mortgaged households are worth less money that the owners owe the banks. Chairman Abt cited that study before saying, “there can’t be more money.”
College Council member Eleanor Venables said she saw a big problem in store for New York State, especially with younger people getting educated and jumping ship for another state. “Where is the state going to get that money?” the councilwoman said.
For more information about the budget process at the college, head to budget.newpaltz.edu.