Revisions to Carryforward Spending Plan raise questions about transparency
Screenshot of the Nov. 6 BOT meeting supporting documents regarding Carryforward Spending Plan revisions.

Revisions to Carryforward Spending Plan raise questions about transparency

On Nov. 6, the New College Board of Trustees (BOT) held a virtual meeting with the sole agenda item of discussing revisions to the Carryforward Spending Plan. According to the State University System of Florida (SUS), Carryforward funds are reserve funds that each university must ensure consists of at least seven percent of the state operating budget in any given year. These funds are meant to be used for certain operating activities, but do not come without limitations. Due to the restrictions placed on Carryforward Spending by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG), these plans must be in accordance with BOG Regulation 9.007 and Section 1011.45. New College’s Carryforward Spending Plan required revisions because it was rejected by the BOG on two particular expenditures: athletics program spending amounting to $600,959 and hotel housing spending adding up to $7,000,000 for both the fall and spring semesters. This meant that the BOT had to find a total of $7,600,959 to pay for these expenses without using Carryforward funds, leading to questions on where this money will come from and what the remaining Carryforward monies will be spent on. 

Carryforward funds can be used for potential budget reductions, anticipated increases in university operations, financial obligations from the previous fiscal year and more. Carryforward funds cannot be used for activities that are meant to be self-sustaining or for new construction. In order to better understand the questions that arose from the revisions to the Plan, the Catalyst held an email interview with Vice President of Finance and Administration Chris Kinsley. Kinsley spoke specifically to the use of the $7,600,959 from the Carryforward balance that was  rejected by the BOG.

“This was essentially a question of what was the most correct budgetary treatment of the original $7,600,959,” Kinsley said. “My recommendation, that was originally adopted by the BOT, was that these items follow the general Carryforward process, under which the BOT and BOG have extensive broad general authority. However, since the proposed expenses were to come from costs in the current fiscal year of 23-24, BOG staff expressed that the use of the current budget was preferable, and that New College had specific authority in the State’s General Appropriations Act that could be used to address these costs. ​​The President ultimately made the decision to defer to the BOG on this matter, leading to the most recent BOT meeting where the BOT officially revised the Carryforward Spending Plan, which the BOG then took up that same week and approved the revised plan.”

With this, Kinsley explained that the reasoning from the BOG for the rejection of Carryforward monies being used to cover athletics program costs and hotel housing is due to the expenditures coming from costs generated during the course of the 2023-2024 fiscal year; therefore, the current budget should be used. Florida’s General Appropriations Act, as of 2023 explains that the law allows public institutions to receive funds to “pay salaries and other expenses, capital outlay—buildings and other improvements, and for other specified purposes of various agencies of state government” from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024. Kinsley explained that, according to BOG direction, this pool of money could be used to cover the prices of hotel housing and athletics programming. As stated by Kinsley, the BOG accepted and approved the BOT’s budget revisions following the Nov. 6 virtual meeting. 

Referring specifically to how the budget adjustments were made: “‘How’ the reallocation of budget lines [works] is a technical matter. It is being done by budget staff in close coordination with the President’s Office, and is no simple matter,” Kinsley wrote. “No new money has been created. It is a matter of shifting planned costs from one account to another—but since it is a matter of shifting over $7,000,000 this is no small task. Budget and fiscal staff are working in close coordination to set the College Budgetary accounts in proper position to reflect what has been approved by the Board of Trustees. The how and why is being done under my auspices, with oversight by the President’s Office.”

Kinsley emphasized the need for a clear and balanced budget in the future. 

“I hope by the next BOT meeting in January to have a fully revised Budget that will clearly reflect the changes approved by the BOT. As the fiscal year progresses, specific spending will occur, and we can certainly highlight as the year goes along how these funds are benefitting both students and faculty,” Kinsley concluded. 

Though the Carryforward Spending Plan was approved following the revisions made, there has been a lack of clarity among community members regarding the use of the rejected Carryforward monies and the expenditures that still required payment. The Catalyst discussed the idea of transparency in New College’s administration in a virtual interview with Rodrigo Diaz (’91), an alum who has helped the Save New College movement by reading through BOT documents and budget plans. 

Diaz reached out to the Catalyst on Nov. 17, citing concerns in the revisions made to the Carryforward Spending Plan and how this relates to the overall transparency of the administration’s proposed changes and additions. Diaz made it clear that the lack of time dedicated to publicly discussing the Carryforward revisions in the brief Nov. 6 BOT meeting led to his own confusion and concern. 

“There was a meeting on Nov. 6, a special BOT meeting via Zoom,” Diaz said. “It was all of 19 minutes long, and most of it consisted of questions asked by [Faculty] Trustee Amy Reid.”

Diaz highlighted the brevity of the meeting and the fact that Reid was the primary spark of conversation to suggest that the meeting did not help in clearing up questions community members with a looser grasp of the concepts discussed may have had while watching. 

“The lack of transparency that I’m talking about in the Carryforward is part of a larger pattern of a lack of transparency that is characterizing some of the most important decisions made by the new administration,” Diaz said. “If Amy Reid’s question [in the Nov. 6 BOT meeting] had been answered, we would not be having this Zoom call right now. The solid issue is that there’s just not the level of transparency that there needs to be if you are running a public honors college in Florida’s state university system. Things need to be run in a much more consultative, inclusive and timely manner. Students need to know ahead of time so they can make plans.”

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