Faculty senate says budget cuts are coming

Aiden Denehy, Editor-In-Chief

Rumors have begun to spread around Saint Anselm college recently regarding a potentially challenging financial situation facing the school. According to Saint Anselm chief of staff Neil Levesque, however, the changing financial situation does not represent any financial difficulty but is actually the result of a routine auditing process to investigate college’s administrative efficiency.

In a statement to the Crier, Levesque said: “We have been blessed with success in recent years, and our enrollment and endowment remain strong; however, we need to maintain the position of strength from which we currently operate into the future. It is always the responsibility of the administration, to our students and to the college, to run as efficiently as possible at all times, in the interest of serving our students most effectively.”

However, Levesque did not deny that the college was taking measures to save money; quite the opposite. He stated that early investigations had already revealed new avenues of saving the college (and hopefully students) money:

“The Board [of Trustees] asked that we engage in a strategic and stringent financial review of all areas. Some results of this are already being put into action, as all budget managers and senior administration have been integrally involved in the budget development process to date: A new financial modeling software, the new payroll system, and an independent audit of HR policies and practices, health care plan design and costs, are a few of the areas where savings have already been identified.”

Levesque stated that the college had not made any decisions regarding staff, students, or faculty at the college for next year’s budget.

Scott Field, the Director for Customer Service of Information Technology here at Saint Anselm College, seemed to echo Levesque’s statements.

HawkNet, Saint Anselm’s IT Help service, experienced large cutbacks to hours for student workers recently. Field claims that the hours cuts were necessary due to a reduction in payroll budget and students working through their Federal Work Study allotment.

“During my time at the college, both payroll and Workstudy have been reduced during the budget process at least twice. Payroll was reduced for this year’s budget and the recent reduction in hours is the result of managing to that budget. It’s necessary as part of the academic cycle to use more student hours at the start of the year and fall semester.” Field said of the new hours. Field stated that the shifts which were cut entirely, the weekend and evening shifts, saw little to no activity, and thus were considered low priority compared to the others.

When asked why the changes had occurred, Field said “The hour reduction was due to the payroll budget reduction made to IT’s submitted budget this year. We managed to that budget while trying to give the students the hours they requested and meet the needs of the Help Desk. We have been monitoring the payroll and Workstudy budget through the year to forecast when and if we would need to take action. This is a difficult process as students have various and changing hours, different pay rates, and different Workstudy assignments.” Field said he did not want to comment on any rumors about financial issues at Saint Anselm College, but said that “every organization deals with budget issues as a necessity.”

However, the Faculty Senate minutes suggest a different story. The official minutes of the meeting of Faculty Senate of March 20, 2018 state that Saint Anselm’s current operating deficit is on “a -1.89% operating margin.” Part of this budgeting issue stems from what has only been described as a “miscalculation” to the order of 1.5 million dollars which the minutes state was because tuition for the Academic Year 2016-2017 was calculated from a discount rate which did not include fees. The Crier did not receive comment from members of administration or the faculty regarding this issue.

Also mentioned in the faculty senate minutes were potential areas of saving from the college. As mentioned by administration, these included renegotiating contracts and investigating potential areas of inefficiency where money could be saved- however, the minutes also stated that the College is investigating making cuts to Federal Work Study spending in addition to payroll.

Under federal guidelines, a school most provide at least 25% of the funding a student receives in pay from the Federal Work Study program- so, for example, if somebody earned 100 dollars, the school would have to pay at least 25 dollars of that amount. Faculty Senate minutes state that 300,000 dollars had been reimbursed but a greater amount than that had been spent.

The minutes from February 13th also stated that a likely reduction in budget was in the works for next year, but nothing had been finalized yet. The minutes stated that Academic Year 2017-2018 had spent 5.8 million dollars, and this number was expected to be reduced to 5.5 million for 2018-2019, but this had not been finalized.

Also in the works is a new welcome center, plans of which have been shown to faculty senate (and presumably the trustees) but remain unheard of to many students. The new welcome center will stand in place of the current Jean bookstore and will house Admissions and Financial Aid, whose offices will be moved out of Alumni Hall.

This move creates an issue of historical propriety as the bookstore building is nearly 100 years old, having originally been built for the US Army during World War I before eventually being moved to Saint Anselm College.

Additionally, the new welcome center is expected to cost 3.25 million dollars, a significant portion of which will be funded through a bond issue. Such a large number has some students questioning the value of destroying the Jean building for a brand new welcome center.

When asked for comment, Professor Schmidt of the Budget Advisory Committee (of the Faculty Senate) stated, “The Budget Advisory Committee has not been consulted about cuts to the 2018/19 budget. I know what you know—that there is a deficit of $1.5 million. That is what… our representative of the President’s Cabinet [has reported.] I don’t know whether a plan has been or will be presented to Cabinet before it is approved by the Board of Trustees.”

Nothing regarding next year’s budget has yet been finalized. Administration insists that nuance should be used, that there is no cause for panic, and that everything will be the same as it has been. However, the senate minutes seem to suggest something different, and students are encouraged to read them and take interest in the financial situation of the college.

Faculty senate minutes detailing the school’s finances are available for viewing by any student online through the MyAnselm portal.