As Finance is engaging stakeholders across campus, we are seeing themes of common questions. Please see the below answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Since we are budgeting for a year (or more) from now, it is likely there will be things that we will forget or things that pop up that we didn’t anticipate. How will we account for these?
This is also true for our past budget model. Since we are looking out there are some things we can’t plan for or anticipate. There will also be things you thought you were going to do but don’t end up doing. Similar to our current process, when something new or unexpected comes up you would look within your budgets to see if there are things you thought you were going to do but decide not to do. Then, if you cannot find funds to fund the new item/initiative you would put the request to the next level up (VP, Dean, Provost, etc.). If that individual cannot find dollars within the division to fund it from divisional things not happening, then they would put the request through to cabinet to discuss funding.
For things that you are worried about forgetting to budget for, Finance is providing tools to help. In addition to tools and a finance review of what is submitted, the leaders of each division will review your budget from their lens to provide feedback on things that may be missing.
How will we handle items like software, hardware, licensing, etc. that may or may not go through IS since we don’t know if it’s approved through the Systems and Software committee at this point? Also, along these lines, what about furniture that may not come from our budgets in the past but we would have a need to request in the next fiscal year?
For IS, if it is something that only your area uses you will first assess if it’s still a needed item to conduct your business. Other options may be a different vendor, process, etc. If it’s still needed, include it in your plan. These will be coordinated with IS to ensure it is on their radar. The logistics of which budget the expense will reside in will be determined in phase II.
How will we ensure the budget dollars don’t go to the people who are better advocates or who write the best or most compelling plan?
There will be one template that all are using to create a level playing field. Since there will be multiple reviews, the VP of each area knows and can guide what is truly needed. Even if a plan is well written, they may decide it’s not a strategic priority at this time for the division and work with you to revise the plan before it goes to the cabinet level. Additionally, due to the full institutional plan needing to be reviewed, departments need to be able to convey their plan in a concise nature.
What if everybody asks for more than they currently have and more than the institution can cover? How will it be funded and how will decisions be made?
Champlain is a tuition driven institution which means that resources are finite and there are not new dollars available. Because of this we need to ensure our resources get allocated in the best possible way to pursue our mission and meet our strategic priorities. As departments build their plans, they should be thinking about needs versus wants and prioritizing accordingly. Additionally, using the lens of being good stewards of student’s tuition dollars and thinking institutionally versus departmentally. You may ask for more or less in any given year knowing your needs will change from year-to-year. This isn’t a cost-cutting exercise and it isn’t a wish-list exercise. It is about spending smarter and stretching our current dollars. This may mean re-aligning areas so that we are spending our resources smarter, avoiding redundancies, etc. To be innovative you may need to do new things and may have new requests. Also, with innovation is critically looking at current processes, vendors, etc. and letting go of things that are no longer relevant. For most budgeting exercises there is typically greater need than there are budget dollars available. Your prioritization and impact statements are crucial to create a tool to help guide decision-making at the cabinet level as it is likely that all requests will not be able to get funded.
How does the consortium (GMHEC) fit into this new process?
As you examine your current practices, vendors, etc., think about the consortium and how that may be able to be leveraged. For example, if there is a vendor you use that has sizable costs, reach out to the consortium to see what Middlebury and SMC use. It may be better and less expensive or the consortium may be able to leverage a contract for all three schools, thus allowing us to invest those dollars more strategically elsewhere in the institution. The Strategic Budget Planning process will help facilitate conversations of things you may not have thought about in your areas to spark the questions of if it’s something the consortium can assist with.
It seems like it’s going to be hard not to base on historical costs? What are some suggestions around this?
While we don’t want to base our future budget on prior years since we want to critically examine our process and practices, it may be helpful to look at trends. This is especially true for things that are needed costs but may fluctuate from year to year. In these instances, reach out to Finance to see if there is any trend data that may be available to support your work.
What about student employment? How will the budgeting process for student employment change in this process?
Student budgeting will also go through this process. Rather than being given a dollar amount and hiring students based on what you have available, you will examine how many students you need and at what level you need them to come up with a proposed budget. This may not be the final approved budget by cabinet but it starts with you identifying your needs, and the impact on your business of not having what you are requesting. Finance can provide assistance in forecasting the amount once you have identified needs and levels.
After we go through this once will it be easier next year?
It will be more work this year as we are starting a new process. Some of the work you are doing this year will lay the groundwork for next year and it will help in future year budgeting.