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SMC update gives optimistic analysis

Laura Baumgartner | Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Saint Mary’s community experienced a resurgence of optimism Tuesday following three sessions of joint presentations, which provided updates on the College’s budget, identity initiative and new academic building.

Vice President of Finance Laurie Stickelmaier began each of the presentations with a somber recollection of past years’ budget projections.

“When we had the September 2004 budget conversation, things were not in real good shape,” she said.

Stickelmaier said at that time the College had finished the last two years with deficits – a trend that was projected to continue into the near future.

“We had projected, at that time, deficits for the years to come reaching from two to three million dollars,” she said.

In order to deal with – and possibly reverse – this downward trend, Stickelmaier said the College considered many areas where budget cuts could be made.

Almost two years later – after a $4 million transfer of Plant Fund Reserves to an quasi-endowment fund, reductions of non-salary expenditures, a decrease in costs of employee benefits, reductions in employee positions through attrition, retirement and restructuring, and leaving vacant positions open for longer periods of time – Stickelmaier said the College is on its way to pulling out of the red.

The College also bolstered funds by using money left over from department budgets, reducing bills through water and energy conservation campaigns and increasing the use of consortia and cost-sharing arrangements, she said.

Stickelmaier said the College focused on increasing revenue to facilitate the move from deficit to surplus. She attributed the increase seen over the last year to a rise in bookstore and food services sales, increased private foundation and federal grant fundraising, and the implementation of a facilities fee to fund the Student Center operating costs and depreciation of the building.

Other potential revenue sources – which Stickelmaier said are under consideration -include the possible addition of more professional programs, an interim program over winter break and the expansion of the summer semester program.

“Summer sessions were successful last year and are looking to be even more successful this year,” she said.

Considering the budget cuts and increased revenues – as well as a “flat” projection for expenses besides increases in salaries, utilities, cost of goods sold and depreciation – Stickelmaier said “estimating conservatively” Saint Mary’s should be “in the black for 2007, and in 2008 should have a surplus in the range of $350,000.”

Stickelmaier also said these figures do not include potential increases in enrollment for the 2006-2007 academic year.

“We are still going to have a deficit this year, but things are looking really fabulous,” she said.

Following Stickelmaier’s presentation, vice president for enrollment management Dan Meyer and vice president of college relations Shari Rodriguez provided an overview of the College’s identity initiative progress, and lead architect Terry Steelman of Ballinger Architects described detailed plans for the new academic building.