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SUNY budget change could have dire impact on Potsdam


A top SUNY official says the board of trustees has considered, but not passed, a budget model that could strip SUNY Potsdam of more than one-fifth of its state funding.

Brian G. Hutzley, SUNY vice chancellor for financial services, said the board lacked a quorum last week to vote on a resolution accepting a new budget allocation model.

“It made it through the finance committee, but it did not go to the full board,” he said. “They’ll be meeting shortly to sign off on a bunch of resolutions.”

The new model, which emphasizes federally funded research and graduate programs, would be a body blow to SUNY Potsdam after it suffered a drop in graduate enrollment that caused a $600,000 deficit this school year.

“The first resolution supports the model and the components of the model,” Mr. Hutzley said. “The board is not approving the numbers yet because they are not final.”

According to recent estimates, in the 2013-14 budget, SUNY Potsdam’s state budget allocation would decrease from $12.65 million to $9.92 million, a $2.73 million or 21.6 percent reduction. Mr. Hutzley said the second resolution would help campuses such as SUNY Potsdam make the transition to the new model.

“It is in support of transitional funds and a transition plan with campuses that sit down with SUNY to request three years,” he said. “The support is to help them get stronger – enrollment and efficiency type things.”

SUNY campuses would submit plans to Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher for the strategic use of transition funds to address funding gaps by increasing their enrollment, the amount of federally funded research, or consolidated or shared administrative services. After a review, the chancellor’s office would distribute the funds.

“It is what a system does and a board of trustees does — make every campus stronger,” Mr. Hutzley said.

In some cases, comprehensive and technical campuses might benefit from the transition because they finally will be able to access funds from the SUNY Research Foundation, Mr. Hutzley said.

“That piece of the pie, they’ll be able to compete for it,” he said. “In the end it will make the comprehensive and tech schools stronger in research.”

State funding for state-operated campuses is $780 million, and $7.3 million of that would be diverted from comprehensive campuses such as SUNY Potsdam to university centers at Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook. Technical colleges such as SUNY Canton would take a $2.7 million reduction, and almost $10 million would be taken from medical schools and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry to fund a $20 million increase for the university centers.

Mr. Hutzley said the new budget model was not an attempt to diminish SUNY’s emphasis on its comprehensive and technical college campuses.

“If you look at the details behind the changes, there are comprehensive campuses that are gaining, there are tech campuses that are gaining and there are university centers that are not gaining,” he said. “It all depends on what is happening on those individual campuses, their performance and changes over the past years.”

Mr. Hutzley said that when other funding, such as receipts from tuition, is factored in, no campus will lose money under the new model.

“There’s no reason there should be any loss of service or jobs,” he said. “Students pay tuition; that tuition goes to that campus. As one campus grows and another declines, the funding hasn’t followed that. The money has to follow the students.”

The SUNY board of trustees is scheduled to meet Jan. 14 and 15, but a special meeting could be called in the interim to vote on the resolutions.

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