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Senate Passes Budget Assumptions For FY '99

February 1, 1998

Nick Marinello

The University Senate, in a special meeting held Jan. 7, unanimously passed a set of budget assumptions for the next fiscal year that, if approved by the Tulane Board of Administrators, will go into effect July 1, 1998.

The proposed budget, which was delivered to the Senate by Graeme Forbes, chair of the Senate Budget Review Committee, includes a 5-percent increase in the cost of attending Tulane and a 3-percent increase in faculty and staff salaries.

The cost of attending Tulane is based on a 6-percent tuition increase in the schools of architecture, business, engineering, Newcomb, Tulane and University College; a 3-percent increase in housing fees; and no change in the university fee. Tuition will also increase by 3 percent in the schools of law and medicine and by 12 percent in the School of Social Work.

The proposed 3-percent increase in salaries is less than the 3.5-percent increase in the salary pool that was approved last year. According to the report, "the tuition and salary increase percentages are very intimately related." The increase in tuition is projected to yield an adjusted total of $7.7 million, while the 3-percent salary increase, with benefits, would result in costs of $6.5 million. The difference between tuition revenue and salary expenditure would leave a sum of $1.2 million to support programs and activities on campus.

Because it is the most significant source of such funding, said Forbes, the $1.2-million figure was a result of a delicate, if not painful, balancing act.

"If you think that 6 percent is too big an increase in tuition and would opt to increase it by only 5 percent, then something has to be decreased on the expenditure side, and the only place where that is immediately practical is the salary budget," said Forbes. "This was the best way of balancing the need to keep tuition increases as low as possible with the need to increase salaries competitively."

The issue that sparked the most debate in the senate during Forbes' presentation centered around the plan to balance the athletics budget for next two years. According to the report, the budget for the athletic department would be balanced with the ongoing $1.8-million cash subsidy from the university (approved by the board of administrators in 1997) along with "accelerated spending" of funding received from Columbia/HCA sponsorship.

The proposal for that funding, which was originally designated to be spent at $1 million per year for four years beginning January 1997, is to spend $1.65 million in the current fiscal year (1998) and $2 million in fiscal year 1999. In the words of the report, "This leaves $300,000 to spend in FY 2000. . . and nothing at all for FY 2001 (essentially the money is gone in two years instead of four)."

Though some senators balked at the plan for accelerated spending, Forbes replied, "The committee was reluctantly persuaded that the plan we were presented was probably, at least in the short term, the best way to balance the athletics budget."

President Eamon Kelly agreed. "Given the choice," said Kelly, "between reducing a very thin staff that is already to the point where they can't raise revenues or eliminating sports that would create an environment in which football and other programs could not be a success and accelerating the Columbia/HCA money, the former options did not make any sense."

Sandy Barbour, athletic director, told the Senate that the loss of Columbia/HCA funding could be covered through revenue generated through sales of 10,000 additional season tickets to Tulane football games.

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