Recession Response
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions from Fall 2009
What is the RRPTG?
The Recession Response and Planning Task Group (RRPTG), a group of seven faculty and seven administrative staff, was charged with investigating the best means for achieving financial equilibrium in the next several years. Its task necessitated an awareness of the delicate balance between exercising fiscal responsibility and maintaining our current much-improved institutional position. While the education of undergraduate students is at the core of our mission, they nevertheless spent time scrutinizing all programs and operations with an eye toward budget reduction. They worked guided by a shared sense of essential values and the possibility of new opportunities. Ultimately, they understand that this undertaking must be one of shared sacrifice by all members of the St. Lawrence community across the University.

What happens next?
We plan to offer two forums for all faculty and staff in order to give the entire community a status update, take questions, entertain comments, and lay out a sequence of next steps. We will hold these assemblies in early February. President Fox also will meet with Thelmo to ensure that students have a similar opportunity for discussion. The Board of Trustees met on February 19-20, but no new budgets will be adopted at this meeting (the Board approves budgets at its May meeting).

Who makes the final decisions?
The President, as is usual and customary, will make a budget recommendation to the Board of Trustees in May.  The Board has fiduciary responsibility for the University operating budget.

When will changes be made?
After the Board approves the 2010-2011 budget, in May 2010, the timeframe for actions will depend on the nature of the actions themselves. The new budget takes effect July 1, 2010.
Some changes have already been made - the health insurance premium, for instance. 

What is the timeline?
After President Fox and the senior staff have had time to review the recommendations, the next step will be to formulate budget plans, policies, and priorities in consultation with the Board of Trustees. This round commenced in January and will be an important part of the Board’s February meeting agenda. We will continue to listen carefully, reflect deeply, and communicate frequently with the campus community, University committees, and the Faculty Council.

Why can't we just spend more endowment money?
First, we can only draw from endowment earnings, not the principal. This is what New York State law permits.  There is a pending recommendation to increase our spending from endowment slightly for the short term and that is among the issues we will consider.

Why don't we just let in more students?
We would need to house more students, and we are at capacity now. Further, adding more students would probably mean increasing our aid budget, which has the potential to further strain the budget.

How have faculty and staff positions grown at St. Lawrence?
Growth within the last 10 years breaks down as follows:
*Net increase in faculty positions is 15, which represents a 9.8% increase.
*Net increase in administrative staff 48.5 positions or 27.3% increase. Of those 48.5 positions. 19 (or 39% ) are in Academic Affairs, directly supporting the educational mission
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Are you still accepting ideas for saving money and generating revenue?
Yes. IdeaConnect, on the St. Lawrence Web site, is still running for on-campus access, and supervisors are always open to your ideas. We hope to hear them at the forums, and through other means of communication.

Some of the recommendations for generating revenue will cost money to start up; where will that money come from?
Those questions will be part of our analysis as we determine which recommendations are feasible.

Will we still have to reduce expenses if the economy improves next year?
Due to the way that the budget is constructed, and the way that our spending formula depends upon market performance, we will still face a shortfall, even if the economy improves dramatically in the near future.

How is the fund-raising going right now?
Mid-year results show a small improvement over last year, and decline from the University’s all-time highs in 2007-2008.  Our donors are responding to the extent their circumstances allow, even as the recession is ending and recovery just beginning.

How big is the budget gap?
We face a significant gap in our operating budget, with a projected deficit of approximately $5 million per year for the next several years. The University’s annual operating budget is about $110 million.

If the projected savings and revenues fall short, will there be further actions taken?
We will monitor carefully both revenue and expenses and reserve the options to re-consider additional or alternative recommendations.