Jan. 29, 2009

As university struggles with current 10 percent shortfall, planning begins on budget cuts for 2011

Robert Barker/University Photography
Executive Vice President Stephen Golding in his Day Hall office.

Beginning early February, Executive Vice President Stephen Golding and Provost Kent Fuchs will begin a strategic planning process with the goal of looking ahead nearly a year-and-a-half to the start of fiscal year 2010-11.

Their goal is to create a second 5 percent budget cut on the Ithaca campus from organizational efficiencies and revenue enhancements. They will launch cross-campus teams to assess such functional areas as facilities, information technology, financial administration, and environmental health and safety to find more efficient, effective ways to provide those services across the campus, Golding said.

"It takes time to do these functional revues correctly, because we need to be thoughtful and engage the broader community to ensure we are successful," said Golding, the Samuel W. Bodman Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration.

The cuts will follow a 5 percent ($50 million) budget cut in Ithaca and an 8 percent ($13 million) spending reduction at Weill Cornell Medical College, effective this coming July 1, as announced by President David Skorton in his Jan. 25 message to the Cornell community.

But as the university seeks to deal with a 10 percent budget shortfall, the spending reductions over the next two years will follow a reasonable approach, said Golding.

"Our challenge is to focus on a set of realistic parameters -- not overly optimistic, not overly pessimistic -- that allow us to stay the course and maintain sufficient flexibility such that as the situation changes we can adapt and adjust to it," he said.

In his statement, Skorton also said that the campus construction pause has been extended through June 30. That pause represents well over $500 million in construction spending, Golding said, including a new university health services facility, scheduled to begin in 2010. Projects have also been deferred in the areas of utilities infrastructure and planned maintenance. In addition, the creation of a financial management system that manages construction cash flow has been put on hold, Golding said.

"What we're trying to do collectively is chart a middle course," he said. "We recognize that the currents could change. And hopefully we've left enough flexibility that we'll be able to change with them."

He added, "Cornell is a strong institution, and it has lots of resources at its disposal. We need to remember that even while we make some tough decisions to try to weather this storm."