Winona State’s budget forum rescheduled

Winona State’s budget forum rescheduled

McKenna Scherer, News Reporter

Winona State University rescheduled its latest public budget forum following “discrepancies” found in its budget plans.

Chief Financial Advisor Scott Ellinghuysen announced over email that the April 14 forum would instead occur on April 21 at 2 p.m. via Zoom meeting.

Ellinghuysen said that after several budget meetings with the President’s Cabinet and creating multiple versions of budget reduction scenarios, there was a final plan presented with the “Super Meet and Confer.”

Those at the Super Meet and Confer meeting discovered several errors in the final budget plan.

“For example, a reduction put forth in the December 2019 meeting no longer made sense given a BESI in a department and other subsequent personnel moves,” Ellinghuysen said.

The Super Meet and Confer is a meeting among the leaders of each bargaining unit on campus, including teaching faculty, service faculty, clerical and facilities staff, etc., to have an open discussion on topics such as the budget.

Ellinghuysen said after that and other errors were discovered, “we needed to take a step back and double check everything.”

Winona State implemented its Board Early Separation Incentive (BESI), a budgetary maneuver that encourages faculty and staff members to enter early retirement along with monetary incentive, earlier this year Feb. 3.

The BESI gave two retirement options: retire after the 2019-20 school year or the 2021-21 school year.

Chief human resources officer Lori Reed said in February that of the 108 offers sent to faculty and staff, the majority went to faculty members.

Ellinghuysen now says that 24 of the 108 offers were accepted, and that 15 of those 24 acceptances were from faculty members.

He did not specify which of the 15 faculty members would be retiring after this spring semester or the 2021 spring semester.

Student Senate president Benjamin Ellgen said that he had not been specifically told why the budget forum was rescheduled.

However, Ellgen said that the university administration has not withheld any information from Student Senate regarding the budget situation.

Ellgen also said that Student Senate has had steady communication with the university about the budget situation and how it could affect students.

“It was not like there was some big conspiracy uncovered,” Ellgen said. “They wanted to make sure the information is 100 percent correct before bringing it forward.”

Ellgen said that Student Senate is currently working on a recommendation for next school year’s tuition, which will have a “significant impact” on the budget deficit situation.

Ellgen said that Student Senate will be having their own budget forum, with just the senate members, at their April 22 meeting to have further discussion.

“[There are] no indications that tuition would raise higher than 3 percent due to COVID,” Ellinghuysen said.

Ellinghuysen said that Winona State will present budget plans to the Board of Trustees in May or June which will determine if tuition prices will go up or not.

 

The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.