Redistributing adds $1.3 million to Western budget

MONMOUTH -- State funding for Western Oregon University will drop by almost 11 percent during the 2009-11 biennium.



MONMOUTH -- State funding for Western Oregon University will drop by almost 11 percent during the 2009-11 biennium.

And the budget picture could have been worse, but for a redistribution of dollars by the Oregon University System (OUS) from its larger institutions to its smaller ones.

Western will receive about $36.2 million in state appropriations during the next two years, down from $40.4 million in 2007-09.

Mark Weiss, WOU executive vice president, said the school's preliminary budget for the current fiscal year is $47.4 million, with $18.2 million from state and federal sources, and the balance from student tuition.

Overall, state funding for colleges is down 9 percent, 17 percent without federal stimulus funds.

The finance committee of the State Board of Higher Education recommended on Sept. 4 redistributing money among schools such as Oregon State University to offset lower tuition caps that exist at Western, Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University.

Usually, lawmakers would divide state money on an enrollment basis.

Western will receive $1.3 million under the proposal, which will be voted upon by the board on Oct. 2, OUS said.

Had it not received the boost, the university would have been forced to discontinue its "Western Promise" program -- a four-year tuition guarantee -- in fall of 2010 so it could raise tuition, Weiss said.

"I think it's fair and equitable," Weiss said of the distribution of the funds. "I don't think any institution begrudges another to make sure everyone is operating at a level on par with what they received the year before."

Despite reduced funding, Western isn't planning any layoffs or significant service reductions this year. A few more personnel variables remain, however, before school officials can officially adopt a budget.

One was recently resolved.

OUS agreed to a new contract with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose members comprise much of the classified staff on Oregon's campuses.

That deal entails eight furlough days, no cost of living increases for two years and no contract negotiations next year. Western has 220 SEIU members.

The faculty union, meanwhile, is still engaged in contract negotiations with WOU administrators. Weiss said the talks have been "constructive and amicable" thus far.

"We're very far from anything that resembles (a strike)," he said.


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