University devises new process to tackle problems

A new budget process at Southern Oregon University will enhance transparency and help the school see potential budget problems much earlier than in the past, said Craig Morris, SOU's interim vice president of finance and administration.

Each department will submit a budget and petition a budget committee for funding in the new model known as responsibility-centered management. In the past, the budget office staff, led by the provost, allocated money based primarily on the previous year's budget.

"The budget isn't being created in an office in Churchill," Morris said about the new process. "It's being created on campus. All faculty and staff who want to be a part of the process can do so."

The twelve-member budget committee will consist of students, staff, faculty and administrators, seven of whom will be appointed by SOU President Mary Cullinan, Morris said. The president will not vote in the process, but will approve the final budget.

Although the switch comes on the heels of the $3.7 million budget shortfall, Morris said it was not the cause.

"It was in the works before retrenchment happened, but retrenchment helped underscore the need to look at how we budget, so we can be more responsive to change," Morris said. "With the new budget process, we would be able to see it coming faster."

The budget problems were caused in part by declining enrollment, which led to less revenue while expenses remained the same, he said. The new process will place more emphasis on the connection between enrollment, expenses and revenues in order to stay on track with current reduction plans and avoid additional cuts, he said.

Faculty who will now be responsible for building budgets have mixed opinions about the process.

"The new budget is a lot more work for us, but at least it's open," said English Prof. Charlotte Hadella, who chairs the department of language, literature and philosophy. The workload for department chairs has already increased since the reorganization and combination of departments over the summer, she said.

Other department chairs said the process was so new they didn't feel prepared to comment.

"They're going to have to help us understand a lot about their departments and they know better than anybody else," said Vicki Purslow, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who served on the task force to develop the new system. "They're going to be a key part in helping us understand the needs of the department as we go forth in the budget process."

This is the first time students will be involved in the process as well, a sign of a responsive administration, said Student Government President Monique Teal.

"They want to make sure students not only know about it, but have the ability to have input, and I think that's really positive," she said. "I think it's really important for students to recognize that we have a huge investment with that money, that we are that investment."

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