The Rock dealing with $5M deficit

The university is facing a $5 million deficit in its proposed spending plan.


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Preparing a budget for 2009-10 has been an extremely difficult process for Slippery Rock University.

“The only thing we know for certain at this point is that we will have a deficit. We just don’t know the total scope of the problem,” President Robert Smith told the university’s Council of Trustees.

The new fiscal year begins Wednesday.

“Our two primary revenue streams — our state appropriation and tuition — have yet to be determined, so we are dealing with a shifting target,” Smith said.

The university operated on a $104 million general-fund budget this year and is looking at a $106 million spending plan for 2009-10.

The president said his administration has developed a number of short-term strategies to deal with what is already a $5 million deficit.

Operating budget cuts of $1 million, delays in hiring that will save $1.2 million, deferred maintenance totaling $350,000 and delayed bond payments of $1.7 million are on that list.

“Any additional gap will be covered by the use of reserves,” Smith said.

“We’re going to tighten our belt in many areas, but what we will not sacrifice is the quality of education we provide our students,” he said.

The short-term measures taken will help for now, but funding of the institution, particularly from the state level, is questionable over the long term, Smith said. The university already is looking at how it might offset a similar deficit in the 2010-11 budget and beyond, he said.

The university, recognizing that current economic conditions have created problems for many students, has launched a Rock Opportunity Scholarship program to provide need-based assistance to in-state students facing financial hardship, Smith said.

The university and the Slippery Rock University Foundation have committed funds to provide assistance to about 240 students, he said.