Earlier this month, Vice President for Administration and Finance David Wheaton made public the proposed budget for 2015-2016, following work by the Task Force on Budget group this past fall. During February, the budget was presented to the President’s Council, an open forum, faculty, the Resources and Planning Committee, and MCSG. It will be presented to the Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee on March 6th.
This year’s proposed budget does not differ much from past budgets, as the size of the college and its operations remains largely consistent from year to year.
“The basic operations of the college need to continue year after year. We always have roughly the same number of students and the same needs in admissions and advancement and in the classroom and in student life,” Wheaton said. “So it’s not dramatically different.”
But even the more consistent aspects of the budget, like personnel costs, do vary year to year.
Much of the budget, as Wheaton explained at the forum, changes from year to year based on the student body size and the percentage of students on financial aid. According to Wheaton’s presentation, next year the student body will grow to the highest level in 43 years. In accommodating that growth and other needs of the school, a slight rise in costs will be seen this year.
“60 percent of all of our costs are spent on faculty, staff and student salaries, and all the benefits, taxes [and] healthcare that go along with it. All of those costs will rise about 3.3 percent this year,” Wheaton said. “Raises are a part of that. We want our people to get raises so that they can continue to be actively part of the community and motivate them to keep working in the great ways they already do.”
Additionally, the change in Minnesota’s minimum wage law will affect the college’s lowest-paid employees. According to the budget presentation, Macalester will spend 13 percent more on its student workers next year.
There are several smaller changes this year, as well, including allocating more money for security, the creation of a new Facilities Energy Manager position—who will manage and track campus energy usage—and the creation of several part-time positions in academic affairs.
One of the most significant changes in this year’s budget is that 500,000 dollars is set aside towards strategic plan initiatives. This unspecified fund can ensure that smaller projects don’t have to wait until the next budgeting cycle to secure funding.
“The first thing we did when we made the budget was build in 500,000 dollars without a specified use,” Wheaton said. “If we decide there’s something we really want to do sooner rather than later, now we have some allocated funds to look to.”
In fact, the first use of those unspecified dollars has already been decided upon.
“In this budget cycle we identified the first use of those dollars, which is to create a full-time director position in the Career Development Center,” Wheaton said. “And that really flows from a couple of priorities in the strategic plan with respect to student placement in career paths.”
The strategic plan also included a reevaluation of current policies with the intention of shifting funding away from current practices in order to better meet students’ needs.
“I think that at its core, students will not see anything in this budget that is dramatically different from what they’ve seen in the last two or three years. Oftentimes things take longer to evolve,” Wheaton said. “We’ll continue to look for things that are of interest, but sometimes they take several years to play out.”