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Region’s state colleges expect financial hits

This area’s state colleges brought in a combined $250 million in revenue for their most recently reported fiscal year, but officials expect state budget cutbacks to cause financial harm for the coming years.

SUNY College at Geneseo reported $103.6 million in revenue and $103.8 million in expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. For the same period, SUNY Brockport had $147 million in revenue and $152 million in expenditures.

Officials from both colleges point out that the numbers might not be the best reflections of true revenue and expenses on campus. Unlike private colleges, SUNY Geneseo’s and SUNY Brockport’s budgets are made up of different funds, some of which are appropriated through the state.

Fringe benefits, for instance, are paid from a central account in Albany but appear as part of the budget for individual schools. Debt service for academic construction is paid by the state on an individual school’s behalf but still shows up on financial statements.

All revenue and expenditure totals for SUNY colleges are taken from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System survey, which schools are required to complete. Information was compiled after the completion of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008.

The total operating budget controlled by SUNY Geneseo officials is closer to $71.6 million, noted Kenneth Levison, vice president for administration and finance. Of this, roughly $18.5 million is state support and $53 million is campus-generated revenue, which includes tuition and fees, Levison said.

At SUNY Brockport, the regular operating budget is $50 million to $51 million, said Louis Spiro, vice president of administration and finance.

The budgets did not yet reflect some of the larger cutbacks the state government has imposed on SUNY, Levison said. The state cut $315 million in SUNY funding over the last two fiscal years, not including $90 million cut recently.

"Much of the effects you’re going to see will be in next year’s budget," Levison said. "One thing to remember when looking at the increase of revenues is how much comes from an increase in tuition rather than an increase in enrollment.

"For us, until the spring of last year, we didn’t have a tuition increase for six or seven years, so I think we’re going to see a major downturn in the next year."

In response to the state cuts, SUNY Brockport has enacted a hiring freeze, keeping 30 staff positions vacant. Divisions within the college have cut back on discretionary spending and travel for conferences. Each division was assigned to reduce its non-personnel budget by 7 percent, Spiro said.

"Some of them chose to cut equipment, some cut travel, and across the institution they are all trying to cut expenditures to the greatest amount possible," Spiro said.

Despite the cuts, Spiro said the IPED report for the next year will not look far different because contractual salary increases likely wipe out the reductions.

"That won’t look significantly different, but it won’t reflect the 30 lines we had to leave vacant," Spiro said.

Highest-paid officials
Salaries for highest-paid officials were similar at both colleges, reflecting guidelines set by the SUNY system that establish ranges for positions. Salaries for individual positions were markedly lower than for similar posts at local private institutions.

John Halstead, SUNY Brockport president, had the highest salary with $215,000. Christopher Dahl, SUNY Geneseo president, received $205,000 in salary. Both presidents were given a state car for official purposes and a house, for which they paid maintenance fees.

Following the state guidelines, the two institutions’ lists of highest-paid employees mirrored each other. The next-highest position at both schools was the provost and vice president for academic affairs. SUNY Geneseo’s provost, Katherine Conway-Turner, received $185,300 in salary, while Anne Huot at SUNY Brockport got $182,250. Conway-Turner left the Geneseo school in December 2008.

After the provost, the vice presidents of administration and finance earned the most, followed by vice presidents for advancement. These positions were the first to show differences among the schools, with SUNY Brockport’s officials both in the $170,000s and SUNY Geneseo’s in the $150,000s.

One faculty member was among the top 10 highest-paid employees at either school. Robert Gemmett, a professor of English at SUNY Brockport, was paid $133,434.

Across the board, compensation for officials at the state schools lagged their private counterparts’. The most comparable salary among presidents belonged to John Martin of Roberts Wesleyan College, who received $218,010 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, as reported in a Form 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service. Roberts Wesleyan has a total enrollment of close to 1,800, compared with roughly 8,500 at SUNY Brockport and 5,600 at SUNY Geneseo.

10/23/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303.


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