From the president: Message regarding 2011-13 budget

Submitted by admin on Fri, 08/13/2010 - 12:24pm


As you likely are aware, Governor Gregoire held a press conference Thursday in which she announced that, in light of continuing declines in state revenue, state agencies would be asked to prepare for possible additional and very serious budget reductions for the 2010-11 fiscal year. That is the fiscal year we are currently operating in and for which we have, twice already, gone back and made very major budget cuts. Yesterday's press release from the Governor's office can be found here.

At this point, we have heard no more than what was publicly announced yesterday. Actual direction has not been received. We are seeking clarification on a number of critical points. Of course, as soon as we know more we will communicate that information to you.

My original intention was to write to you today on a different budgetary matter: our 2011-13 state budget request, which will go to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their meeting next week.

As you know, much time was spent last year on two budget processes: preparing (and further cutting) our 2010-11 operating budget and preparing the 2011-13 budget request. Both proceeded bottom-up, within planning units, with all submissions available on the web and with presentations audiocast.

With the help and insights of many on campus, the preparation of the 2011-13 budget request took a detour of sorts. It became apparent to all involved that business as usual – looking just at requests for state funds, looking just at the next biennium, and using a strategic plan that gave too little focus – was just not up to the challenges ahead, just would not direct our best shared thinking.

So, as you look at the 2011-13 budget request that the Trustees will be considering, please attend more to the approach and process than to the actual budget items. In times like this, we felt it important to state the case for reinvesting in public higher education but are realistic about the prospects for there to be immediate additional funding for anything we might request.

Please critically consider the new process: one that remains open, bottom-up, and transparent, but also attempts to look across a broader range of funding sources (i.e., not just state appropriations), across several biennia (rather than one), and with sharper strategic focus.

It's a first effort, made up by all those involved in the process as we were going along. Consequently, there is the need to review, critique, learn, and improve the process. As we deal with the budget challenges ahead, it is all the more essential that we continuously improve processes that help keep us together, that engage all our very best thinking to maintain Western`s widely recognized excellence. That is critical to Western's continuing strength and that strength is critical to brighter futures for our state.

Opening Convocation on Sept. 17 will be an opportunity for us to gather – importantly to be together, to share a meal, and to celebrate the excellence that is Western through major faculty, staff and team awards. And, in my remarks, I will seek to stimulate your best thinking on how we can deal with the immediate fiscal challenges while attending to the long-term well-being of what is an outstanding University, made so by the people who are the University. I firmly believe that, while none of us individually has “the answer,” together our answers will be powerful.

My best,

Bruce Shepard
Author Title
WWU President