2/11/2010: Brad Shelton, UO’s new VP for Budgeting, has been working on a new budget model for UO. This model will specify how UO’s money is allocated to the schools and the administration. I think this budget model will do three important things.
First, it will provide some basic transparency about where our money comes from and where it goes. Many of the newly available public resources on UO expenditures derive from Shelton’s need for the information to complete this process. Until he got involved, this information was deliberately hidden away from the faculty and even the colleges, and there was no prospect for open debate on UO spending priorities.
Second, the model will, for the first time, impose a hard budget constraint on the administration. In the past, when Frances Dyke and Linda Brady wanted to spend a few million remodeling Johnson Hall, or Frohnmayer wanted to give Moseley a fat retirement deal, or Moseley needed to spend a million on a new Diversity office quick to cover up a lawsuit, or Jim Bean wanted to give his friends a raise on the sly, they simply did it. Then they figured out later who to take the money from. Under the new model, the administration will get a cut of the gross, and they will have to live within it. How radical – education comes before administration.
Third, the model will make clear the extent to which student tuition money from CAS, Business and Journalism goes to support the other colleges and the such administrative adventures as Bend, Portland, Sustainability, OIED, and Bean’s “big ideas”. No comment on whether or not these are good ideas, but if they are good, why hide the numbers?
The basic plan is simple: Colleges will keep the tuition they collect, but pay a 28% tax to the administration for central services. The administration will also get the state allocations. (This seems odd – it would be more politic to allocate them to instruction.) The details are already getting ugly however. The biggest issue – after the tax rate – is what gets grandfathered in. The administration has been on a splurge for the past 5 years – does this go into their base? Similarly, some colleges are subsidized by others. In particular, CAS and to a lesser extent Business subsidize Law, Music, Bend and now Portland. According to some calculations CAS gives up $23 million to the other schools, Business give up $9 million, and Journalism also is in a hole. Are these arrangements going to continue, or will more money go to CAS? From what I hear the new model will lock in the current subsidies. But since new tuition money will be allocated to where the students are, over 5 or 10 years the percent going to administrative bloat, and the extent of the cross-subsidies, will gradually decrease.
Importantly, this model will be applied at the college level – not at the department level. But obviously it will make it easier to think about allocation issues between departments as well, and it’s hard to imagine that won’t have some impact before long
One critical part of this plan is improved financial transparency. As I said, developing this plan has required the preparation of much more information than has previously been available about UO expenditures, and Shelton has been great about making it public, along with Kelly Wolf, and Laura Hubbard. But once the system is in place, the games will begin. Administrators will try to put their pet projects onto the instructional side. So it will be important for the ongoing expenditures to be transparent too.
As it happens, because of a motion Nathan Tublitz got through the Senate last year, the UO Senate Financial Transparency Working Group is developing a solution to this now, in collaboration with UO Controller Kelly Wolf. Soon any UO employee will be able to access transaction level details from UO’s accounting system, via a link on your duckweb page. So next time the administration decides to give one (or three) of their own $750,000 golden parachute buyouts, everyone will be able to see that the money comes from a fund that was established for retiring tenured teaching faculty. We still might not be able to do anything about it, but at least it will be common knowledge.
Bottom line, the administrators will keep their current loot. Music, Law and AAA will still be subsidized by CAS. But the sort of thing that Moseley is (still) doing with Bend will not happen again. And if UO continues to grow, over time more of the new tuition money will go to CAS for instructional purposes than has been true in the past.