Regents aim to follow new budget process for coming year

Board wants to see what ‘zero revenue change’ budget would look like

The University of Colorado Board of Regents last week outlined a new budget process that they say will provide guideposts throughout the coming fiscal year.

During the board’s meeting last week at the University of Colorado Boulder, Regent James Geddes, chair of the board’s Budget and Finance committee, said he would like campus CFOs to present “zero revenue change” budgets at the board’s November meeting. Those budgets “would perhaps take into account a savings with certain efficiencies, and may include some nondiscretionary expenses … that can be offset against those savings,” Geddes said.

“That’s not to say that’s what will happen, but that gives us an anchor or reference point to proceed with throughout the process,” he said.

Geddes said the board would ask campuses to describe and prioritize a list of recommended expenditures, thus indicating “what sort of tuition increase would be required.” Those priorities would be provided to the board in January.

In February, the board would aim to reach consensus on the priorities it would support, to be followed by multiple budget scenarios dependent on likely amounts of state funding support; the budget options would be offered to the board by Todd Saliman, vice president of budget and finance and chief financial officer for the CU system.

“By the time we learn the degree of state funding, we’d be in a good position to finalize (our 2013-2014 budget), ending up (in April) with a tuition determination for the campuses and major schools,” Geddes said. “We also feel this process will allow us a very clear description of our desires and dilemmas in providing high-quality education to our students. Perhaps it can be a tool to help encourage our legislators to give us better support … as funds become available.”

Geddes called the process a “change in direction” that would be fluid, and that the timeline could shift based on feedback from the campuses.

“We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we do know that state revenue growth is not going to be enough to cover state expenses,” Saliman said. “The good news is, we will likely see a bump in revenues next fiscal year, which will help all of us. But that likely won’t be adequate to cover growing costs in the budget over time.”

CU President Bruce Benson said that any anticipation of a revenue bump should be tempered, because there’s a question of whether the state might direct the university how to use increased funding.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano told the committee that the possibility of additional revenue streams could affect budget planning throughout the year. “We’ve been talking about some areas that could in fact be revenue streams – Tech Transfer, for example -- in addition to state funding and tuition, which could give us a better picture.”