Cal U. boasts $5.8 million budget surplus
Students walk on the campus of California University of Pennsylvania.
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An audit presented Wednesday night to California University of Pennsylvania leaders shows a stunning fiscal turnaround that produced the school’s first budget surplus in years.
Cal U. officials said they turned a projected $11.8 million budget deficit for last school year into a $5.8 million surplus by cutting “low-hanging fruit” and costly expenditures across the campus.
Interim President Geraldine M. Jones, who took the reins of the embattled university in May 2012, told the board of trustees that the school is on better financial ground than previously thought. Officials said this is the first time in several years the university has finished the school year with a budget surplus after consistently running quarterly deficits from 2008 to 2012.
“This was a combined effort on the part of the administration, the faculty and the staff to balance the budget and bring financial stability to this university,” Jones said during the Wednesday night meeting.
Cal U. immediately made cuts across the campus after Jones was installed as president and removed programs that weren’t part of the university’s core mission, spokeswoman Christine Kindl said. She pointed to the costly Smithsonian exhibitions that were considered to be an unnecessary luxury when the financial problems arose.
“They were wonderful to have on campus, but they were very expensive and not part of the core mission of academics for our students,” Kindl said.
The school whittled away a large portion of the projected deficit during the summer of 2012 and continued to make cuts throughout the school year. Kindl said that large cuts were crucial, but smaller savings found across the campus also proved to be key.
“The goal was to keep the focus on the academics and make sure student life continued to be a worthwhile experience,” Kindl said. “We certainly didn’t want to sacrifice any of that. But we do need to live within our means and that needs to apply to every area of the campus.”
One of the larger savings was the school’s decision to terminate its management contract for the new $59 million convocation center. Kindl said school officials hope that decision will save them about $300,000 this year while still being able to maximize its use for the students.
“We have a wonderful facility with the convocation center and want to use it as effectively as we can,” she said. “We use it for such a variety of things.”
The school also declined to fill numerous staff vacancies and eliminated a handful of management positions, Kindl said. Other reductions were made to service purchase contracts, professional service agreements, athletic agreements, advertising and transportation.
School officials plan to send $2.36 million of the surplus to the university’s “emergency fund” designed for unplanned expenditures or budget shortfalls. Another $1 million will be set aside for the New Science building fund and the remainder of the surplus will be spent on maintenance or building expenses.
“Our work is not done, but we are encouraged by these results and determined to return the university to a position of strength,” Jones said during the meeting.
The full audit on the university’s 2012-13 budget that totaled $111 million will be available at the December meeting of the board of trustees.