President reports on budget climate

Dec. 21, 2009

CCRI President Ray M. Di Pasquale

First, I would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming amount of support I’ve received during the past two weeks. It is an honor to be your president and to have the added privilege and responsibility of acting commissioner of higher education.

Today’s communication is intended to keep the college community informed of the budget challenges we face this year and next. As you are all aware, Rhode Island, like many states across the nation, is facing the most serious revenue shortfall in memory. In fact, many economists have written that we have not seen the national economy this bad since 1929. However, we will continue to move forward despite the less than stellar economic climate.

I want to share with you a few examples of the progress we’ve made this past year. Recently, we celebrated the renovation of our Warwick library and the renovation of our dental health laboratory in Lincoln. This summer we will finally start replacing the original HVAC equipment at our Lincoln campus. These improvements were made leveraging private donations to our Imagine fundraising campaign with taxpayer and tuition revenue. We must continue to work collaboratively to find new, creative and more efficient ways to deliver a quality education to our students.

Our fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Rhode Island and to those that pay our students’ tuition demand that we find ways to enhance our sources of revenue. Equally as important, we also must find ways to control costs across our four campuses. This is an effort that requires everyone’s participation. We must be good stewards of our taxpayer and tuition dollars.

Just last week, the governor submitted his midyear budget correction to the original FY 2010 budget, known as the Governor’s Supplemental Recommendation. The Governor’s Supplemental Recommendation cut $10.6 million from the three public higher education institutions in Rhode Island: CCRI, RIC and URI. This cut is marginally higher than our budget and finance team was planning for. CCRI’s share of that cut is $3.5 million. How do we operate with this reduction at midyear? Fortunately, we have chosen a conservative fiscal strategy over the last four years.

The main tenet of our strategy is to protect our academic core. Currently we have more than 120 vacant positions, which has given us the financial buffer to weather this economic storm. We are well aware of the consequences of this strategy. It means that we must all work harder to deliver quality education and services to our students. We have chosen to fill faculty vacancies while accepting vacancies in administration and student support. Over the remainder of this fiscal year, we will conservatively and strategically fill vacancies and fund purchasing requests that impact our core academic mission, our ability to generate revenue and our ability to control costs. Selected academic, asset protection and information technology projects that we had been holding in reserve until our 2010 budget picture was clearer will move ahead.

As I stated earlier, this will be an effort that impacts everyone. In response to this shortfall, all Board of Governors non-union employees are taking a 2 percent pay cut for the second half of fiscal year 2010. Additional tuition hikes for FY 2010 are unlikely; however, our revenue is dependent on maintaining our enrollment at current levels. We are now more dependent on tuition revenue than ever before.

Cost containment strategies will remain in place through 2010 and well into the future. All economic and budget projections indicate that FY 2011 will be even more challenging than FY 2009 and 2010. Among those cost containment strategies in place are:

While we can no longer continue “business as usual,” this is also not a time to panic. We have the opportunity to examine all of our operations in an effort to continue to serve our students and to strengthen CCRI. These are challenges that we will all face together. We can and should use this economic crisis to search for opportunities to make CCRI the value-based educational alternative for all citizens of Rhode Island to enhance their academic and workforce development opportunities.

As more information becomes available, I will share that with the CCRI community. As we conclude this semester, I want to wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.