USF Administration Proposes Council to Oversee Budget

Ever wondered how the school delegates its budget? USF faculty and staff have wondered, too.

In order to improve understanding of how the University spends its money, administrators of academic affairs and internal operations have proposed an initiative to create an Operating Budget Advisory Council.

The council will be an advisory body to USF’s financial decisionmakers made up of faculty and staff.

The USF community has desired more communication and greater transparency, Jeff Hamrick said, who oversees the school’s budget and analytics. The University’s president and the board of trustees are required to approve balanced budgets and guide operations to generate modest positive operating surpluses every year, Hamrick said. While that responsibility can’t be delegated, it can be overseen.

Hamrick also hopes to get stakeholders’ views regarding budget assist proposals, such as having council members review proposals and their connection to USF’s mission, potential risk factors and the likelihood of producing savings and efficiencies.

“[The goal is to] provide a formal mechanism for advice from faculty and staff on the university’s operating budget,” Provost Donald E. Heller said in an email interview.

The council is being proposed in light of the most recent Campus Climate Survey conducted in spring 2018. Fifty-nine percent of faculty and staff reported they considered leaving USF within the past year — the most common reasons were due to financial strains relating to workload, pay and living in the Bay Area.

“The University’s administration recognizes that we have been through a number of difficult years of reallocating base budgets across the institution to accommodate greater financial aid for our students and competitive employee compensation increases,” Hamrick said. “We expect this situation to continue, to some extent, for the foreseeable future.”

For example, the budget for the 2018-19 academic year contained a $10.7 million deficit, according to a separate interview with Hamrick last semester.

These situations, Hamrick said, have raised numerous questions regarding resource allocation decisions at USF. Since the administration is supportive of budgetary education and transparency, according to Hamrick, they are creating this faculty-staff-administration council.

“I’m interested in getting council members’ views concerning Budget Assist proposals, for example, having council members score those proposals in terms of their connectedness to the University’s mission, their potential for risk mitigation, the likelihood with which they will increase stakeholder satisfaction and how likely they are to produce longer-term savings and efficiencies,” Hamrick said.

“The President ought to get that sort of assessment from stakeholders.”

Heller and Hamrick worked together to draft the initial proposal of the council, deliberated with members of the President’s cabinet for the first few drafts and continue to widen the circle of deliberation as they continue to refine details, Hamrick said.

Heller said he would like to see the council begin its work this semester before the new fiscal year begins this July. He said it could also start in fall 2019.

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