November 16, 2016 1:00PM
President Steve Scott, with Government and Communication Relations Director Shawn Naccarato and Government Relations Team Member Riley Scott, shared the state’s grim budget outlook at a town hall discussion for Pittsburg State University employees on Tuesday.
Although the forecast was generally gloomy, President Scott told those gathered that there are reasons to be hopeful.
“I described the news today as brutal,” Scott said. “I don’t know how else to describe it. We are not in a good place.”
The president said, however, that he believes the campus has what it takes to find a path through the difficult times.
“There’s hope. There’s moderation coming,” Scott said. “I like our odds of figuring our way through it.”
The town hall discussion began with an overview of the most recent state elections, in which Democrats and moderate Republicans made significant gains. Naccarato and Riley Scott said 35 percent of the legislators who take their seats in January will be new.
They cautioned, however, that change in the state’s tax policies and enhancements to revenue, if approved, will take a long time to take effect, possibly until the first of 2018. The state, meanwhile, has immediate budget problems.
Naccarato said the state’s revenue projections for FY17, the current budget year, have been downgraded nearly $350 million and the projection for FY18 is down $444 million.
Naccarato and Riley Scott said when it convenes in January, the new legislature will face some stark decisions and a rescission bill for the remaining months of FY17 is likely. The magnitude of potential cuts can’t yet be known, but some early projections indicate it could be around 5 percent.
“Short term, we missed our tuition collection target by about $1 million because we had some enrollment loss (in the fall of 2016),” Scott said. “That’s not unusual across the system and not unusual around the country. If we take a 5 percent cut this year this year, during FY 17, that’s another $1.7 million.”
Scott said the university is facing decisions about how to address both the short-term and long-term budget challenges.
“(We’re) trying to figure out, how do we position ourselves to get through FY17 and then in the out years, how do we prepare for ‘18 & ‘19.”
The president told those gathered to expect more information as soon as it becomes available.
“We want to make sure we tell you what we know,” Scott said. “What you’ll see us do is make some announcements about what we think is the strategy in the short term and then you’ll see some additional announcements about what we’ll do in the long term.”
The president said that while he wanted to share the seriousness of the state’s budget challenges as openly and honestly as possible, he didn’t want the campus to feel hopeless.
“We control a lot of this,” Scott said. “Yes it’s difficult. Yes there are some paths through this and we have a lot to say about what that path looks like and the ultimate outcome.”
The president said he is encouraged by the people he sees around him every day.
“We all have a responsibility to make things work here,” Scott said. “We are all educators. We are all admissions officers. We are all development officers. We’ll get this done.”
The entire town hall meeting is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzT37lBL6Ew&feature=youtu.be.