New College budget takes 'pretty heavy hit' after Tallahassee tells NCF to find its own funds

State funding for New College fell by more than $1.5 million this year while almost $1.2 million in non-recurring Federal Stimulus dollars ran out. Together these cuts resulted in a recurring budget shortfall, or a continuing budget hole, of almost $2.8 million in the school’s $30 million budget.

Vice President John Martin characterized the cuts as “a pretty heavy hit” for New College.

The cuts will have academic and financial consequences for many students as the search for replacement of full-time faculty will be delayed and the number of work-study positions will be reduced.

Though a 15 percent tuition increase gave the school about $700,000 more than last year, this covers only a fraction of the large budget cuts for the general and education fund. The school was able to bring in $1.2 million in new recurring funds primarily from tuition increases, but also from a reduction of operating expenses, previously uncommitted revenues, and an increase in support from the New College Foundation. For the remaining $1.5 million in the shortfall, the school will begin using cash reserves and other non-recurring funds.

A budget model produced by New College shows that the school has just enough money in the bank to pay for the continuing shortfalls until the end of the 2014-15 academic year, at which time the recurring shortfall will have been covered by new recurring funds, producing a small surplus for the next year.

However, this model is based on a set of assumptions such as a 15 percent tuition increases for in-state students continuing beyond 2015, yearly increases in Foundation support and stable funding from the state.

While annual 15 percent tuition increases are expected for years to come, increased support from the New College Foundation is less certain.

Martin said the latter assumption was based on “talking with the Foundation. We’re rolling out a capital campaign [and the Foundation] is really ramping up their fundraising efforts.”

Martin said the Foundation believes it can contribute $75,000 more than last year. “Whether that actually comes true or not, we don’t know because part of it is fundraising,” Martin said. “Did we bring in the money or not? We won’t know that until June 30 of next year.”

Even with fundraising uncertainty, the budget model assumes further increases in funding from Foundation increases that grow incrementally larger each year, growing by $250,000 in the 2015-16 Academic year.

Perhaps more uncertain is the prospect of future aid from the state.

When asked if he expected increases in state funding for New College, Martin replied “there’s potential that we might see some money” in the future, though he noted that the future economic outlook for the state next year is “not good.”

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature will likely pursue tax cuts for corporations while limiting or cutting state spending for 2012-13. At Scott’s request, New College submitted a spending plan for next year based on a 10 percent reduction of state aid.

Under the 10 percent reduction scenario, Martin said the college would look to furloug staff in order to avoid layoffs. Currently, the school is saving money through reducing operating expenses by five percent and delaying replacement of full-time faculty by using adjunct and visiting faculty for the next few years. Martin did note that the administration will do its best to protect academic programs from budget cuts.

Even so, many students worry the delay in replacing full-time faculty will make finding thesis sponsors more difficult in the future.

Martin said the biggest budget reduction that would affect students is the availability of work-study positions, though the school drew on cash reserves to meet other financial aid needs.

On a more positive note, in spite of the hefty budget cuts for educational and general purposes, the state gave New College almost $1.7 million for infrastructure improvements and minor renovations. The legislature originally appropriated more than $4.6 million for renovation and remodeling of the Caples Campus, but that project was vetoed by Scott.

The college will continue to request more money from the legislature as Martin remains “cautiously optimistic” about future state funding. Either way, fundraising will play an increasingly critical role in keeping the New College budget balanced in the years to come.

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