Put budget numbers in perspective

Put budget numbers in perspective

Put budget numbers in perspective

[editor’s note: Stephen Schiavo is Associate Professor, CIS]

This is in reply to the editorial “Quit bitching, take action” in the Chart of August 29.

We are not productive when we lower the tone of the budget discussion to name calling and ugliness. If we are to be effective in resolving our financial problems without fighting each other or harming the institution, we need to deal with actual figures and offer actual recommendations.

Let’s take a look at Missouri Southern’s 2008-2009 operating budget (as reported in the Carthage Press). Those figures reflect Missouri Southern’s operating budgets by area. (Note that these figures do not include many of Missouri Southern’s costs, such as salaries for staff or faculty. Missouri Southern’s total operating budget is nearly $70 million.)

What can we learn from this view of these numbers?

Clearly, 20% of the money cut from all other budgets went to increase the budget of athletics – reportedly, to pay increased transportation costs. Other areas where budgets increased are relatively modest. For example, the School of Education got a small increase, but to understand its relative size, the entire budget of the School of Education is roughly the size of the increase in athletics. The School of Business’ entire budget is smaller than that increase. The Distance program for Dental Hygiene is substantial, but that’s an increase from zero. As a start-up operation, their entire budget appears here as an increase.

This letter is not to attack or defend any department or program, but rather, to help us all put the numbers into the proper perspective. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that we eliminate the athletics program. On the contrary, I understand that the faculty would love for Southern to have a successful, well supported, well recognized athletic program covering several popular sports. I’ve heard no complaints about the School of Business, the School of Education, the Dental Hygiene program, or other academic programs. We need to rationalize the share of the pain that each program must bear.

It wouldn’t be out of bounds to ask for some specifics in any arguments for or against restoring the International budget. For instance, Dr.. Speck stressed the importance of athletics to the community. Does that mean they support it through purchase of tickets and attendance, and if so, then how much does that offset the costs? If it means the community donates money in response to our athletic programs, then how much? Do students come here or stay here because of our athletic programs? If so, how many students do we gain now, or would we lose if we were to reduce athletic funding? If athletics attracts large numbers of promising students to campus, perhaps we should increase their budget even more. Similar questions should be posed about the International Program, the Honors Program, and so on.

As we begin the campus-wide discussion of how to meet our financial obligations, while building a first-rate regional university, we must avoid sarcasm, personal attacks, and other such non-productive exchanges, and keep our eyes on the real numbers, the programs that are important to the university, and the long-term objectives of the institution.