I want to begin by publicly apologizing to you, the Board, and to our campuses.
Our process this year did not live up to our normal standards around communication concerning the budgets.
Our state has been mired in fiscal uncertainty — even now the General Assembly has yet to send the Long Bill to the Governor for signature. And later this morning we’ll ask you to pass budgets contingent upon that passage and it remaining substantively unchanged from its current form.
This uncertainty has caused us not to be able to advise you, and hence we lacked clarity in communicating to the campuses.
We tried to communicate that uncertainty (Joyce and Tim have been active in their campus communications), and to plan for contingencies, but there is no doubt that it hampered normal dialogue and input around the budget.
As Governor Polis dedicated the CARES Act CERF funds, as the JBC reached its action, we were able to pull together the package of recommendations we’ll bring before you today. This package leans heavily on those federal stimulus funds, pairing them aggressively with your reserves and proceeds from Board-initiated refinancing from our May meeting. These sources of funds allow us to substantively spare the campuses where the real work of teaching, discovery and engagement occurs. The budget reductions our campuses will be recommending to you maintain the priority you established of protecting our payroll and they do not contemplate salary reductions.
Let’s pause here and be clear. We are not avoiding deeper cuts because our campuses lack that will; indeed, future years may show the need for additional belt-tightening. We avoid these cuts in no small part because of our role as a public entity, established by an act of Congress and supported for 150 years by the citizens of Colorado to build a better future. A part of the role we can play today, as we did in the Great Recession, is as a stabilizing influence in the economy of our community and our state.
Layoffs into a time of high unemployment simply fuel downward economic pressure. It is, I believe, the easy solution to shed fiscal risk at the expense of our responsibility as the region’s largest employer supported by the tax dollars of the very citizens who make up that community. But you have, with your prioritization of payroll protection, chosen not to take that easy path. And, not as Chancellor, but as a taxpayer, I want to publicly thank you for the position you are taking. By doing so you add a stabilizing factor into our economy and plant the seeds for the economic recovery that we know will come.
This is not to say that the plans you will hear are without impact. Many positions will remain unfilled and all of us will need to pick up that load. If the State elects to furlough SCP, we may determine that a comparable approach across all employee groups is the equitable solution. And our campuses will be planning for the contingency of a more prolonged economic downturn than any of us hope for.
But we are also not without tools as we look to the future. The recommendation you will hear from the System staff today will include the establishment of an $80 million Board of Governors CERF so that the CSU campuses can step into whatever that future holds to assure students degrees that matter, our communities a safe environment, our world the benefits of our discovery, and our communities the fruits of our engagement.
This was, and remains, a difficult budget. But it is among the budgets I’m proudest of in the dozen years I’ve been responsible for presenting them to you and your predecessors. And it wouldn’t be possible without the work of our federal elected officials, our Governor and State-elected officials, Henry Sobanet and Lynn Johnson and Alejandro Rojas-Sosa; without Tim and Joyce’s leadership, the hard work of EVC Amy Parsons at our system office and Dr Becky Takeda-Tinker and her team at CSU Global. And of course, not without you, who will, if I ever stop talking, be asked to endorse this approach.
About Colorado State University System
Colorado State University System is comprised of three distinct universities: CSU, a leading public research university and the state’s only land-grant institution, located in Fort Collins; CSU Pueblo, a regional-serving campus and federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution; and CSU Global, the nation’s first fully accredited online university. The CSU System’s institutions serve nearly 60,000 students annually. Learn more about the CSU System and its institutions, projects, and partnerships at csusystem.edu.