Officials try to cope with $2.7M cut
The Ohio Board of Regents approved the new university allocations Wednesday.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Officials fear a $2.7 million reduction in state funding could affect ongoing contract negotiations with Youngstown State University's two biggest unions.
"This certainly throws a monkey wrench into things," said Terry Ondreyka, YSU vice president for financial affairs.
"Obviously, the economic issues are leading us to do some thorough review of that component of negotiations," President David Sweet said.
YSU set aside $2 million in its 2002-03 budget for employee salary and fringe benefit increases, but that may have to be revised because of the unexpected drop in state funds, Ondreyka said.
"We need to re-evaluate and work with our board to re-balance the budget," he said.
Roman Swerdan, president of YSU's 377-member classified union, said he did not know how the reduction would affect negotiations.
"I haven't heard all of the real figures on what's being reduced or not," he said.
Dr. John Russo, faculty union president, would not comment on negotiations.
The Ohio Board of Regents approved preliminary allocations Wednesday for the state's public universities and colleges for the 2002-03 fiscal year. Of the 13 four-year universities, eight would lose money, according to the regents' latest estimates.
YSU's state appropriation will drop from $44 million last year to $41.3 million this year. About 46 percent of YSU's $111 million 2002-03 general fund budget is funded through state allocations, with the other 54 percent coming from student tuition.
The University of Akron, Central State, Cleveland State, Miami University, University of Cincinnati, Shawnee State and the University of Toledo also will lose money.
"The real losers are the urban institutions," Russo said.
Five schools will get more money: Bowling Green State, Kent State, Ohio State, Ohio University and Wright State.
Rich Petrick, the regents' vice chancellor for finance, said this year's allocations were driven by two factors: a $100 million cut in higher education funding statewide and a 4.5 percent increase in enrollment.
Growth in enrollment was disproportionate across the state, Petrick said. According to Petrick, some campuses saw increases in the 10 percent to 20 percent range. YSU's enrollment went up 4 percent last fall.
"We have an enrollment-driven [funding] formula, and any dollars that are left are driven to the campuses with the most enrollment growth," he said.
Kent State, for example, had 1,000 more students last fall, he said. Kent's appropriations will increase nearly $3 million.
YSU passed its 2002-03 budget less than two weeks ago under the assumption that it would receive the same amount of state funding this year as last.
"This comes as a surprise to Youngstown State, I'm sure," Petrick said. He added: "We're following the law in calculating these appropriations."
Sweet will brief university trustees on the funding situation this afternoon. Ondreyka said no decisions are expected to be made at the meeting.
The funding loss would be in addition to a $3 million cut in state allocations already built into the 2002-03 budget. Trustees approved an 8.9 percent tuition increase for this fall to make up part of that cut.
Ondreyka said he is developing a list of options on how to make up the additional $2.7 million shortfall, including closer examination of vacant positions that are in the process of being filled.
He said Sweet also has about $1 million set aside in the budget for various "strategic initiatives" that could be reallocated to fill the hole.
Contracts for the university's faculty and classified staff unions expire in August.