College to implement phased budget process

by Kate Farley | 11/18/09 11:00pm

Dartmouth will rely on a four-phase "framework" to identify and implement the planned budget cuts that will be carried out over the next two fiscal years, Dean of the Faculty and acting Provost Carol Folt and senior vice president and strategic advisor Steven Kadish announced in a campus-wide e-mail Wednesday afternoon. The budget planning efforts will be structured around the scheduled Board of Trustees meetings, which will serve as "focal points" for key decisions in the process, according to the e-mail.

Adam Keller, executive vice president for finance and administration, was not a signatory on the e-mail. Keller, together with former Provost Barry Scherr, oversaw the first round of cuts last winter and had been responsible for many of the communications to the Dartmouth community.

Keller, when contacted by The Dartmouth on Wednesday, said he was tied up for the afternoon and referred requests for comment to Kadish, who assumed his current position this summer when College President Jim Yong Kim took office. Kadish followed Kim to Dartmouth from Harvard.

The first phase of the framework, which will last until the February Board meeting, will center on the development of preliminary proposals for budget reduction strategies.

College officials will work to communicate with the Dartmouth community throughout the entire process, Kadish said in an interview with The Dartmouth, but will initially focus on creating a "common understanding" of the College's finances.

"For right now, what we are doing is really trying to be clear about what the financial situation is for Dartmouth," Kadish said.

In the past week, Kadish and Folt have presented the College's financial situation to the Student Budget Advisory Committee and the Faculty Committee on Priorities, while College President Jim Yong Kim has presented to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the President's Administrative Forum and top officials at Dartmouth Medical School.

Kim will give a presentation for all members of the Dartmouth community on Dec. 1.

The administration is soliciting input about the budget cuts via the College's budget web site and has received more than 70 suggestions since Kim announced the current round of cuts 12 days ago, according to the e-mail.

Although most of the suggestions have been anonymous, Kadish said he believes that faculty and staff have contributed the majority of the responses.

"They're people who, for the most part, have very particular knowledge of certain areas of the College," Kadish said.

The suggestions' content will be summarized and posted on the budget web site, which is designed to serve as both an information resource and a way to gather feedback, Kadish said.

After the administration presents the College's financial information to the Dartmouth community, officials plan to focus on collecting input about specific strategies to reduce spending.

"In late December and January, we'll really be looking for feedback on more specific proposals," Kadish said, adding that more targeted feedback collection processes like "larger, more open forums" may be held starting in January.

Student Assembly will work with other student organizations to streamline student input and make information on the budget cuts available to the student body, Student Body President Frances Vernon '10 said.

"My goal for the process is to make sure students have full access to the information that the College provides," Vernon said, adding that the information in Kim's financial presentation is "comprehensive" and that she believes this round of budget cuts will be more transparent than those implemented under former College President James Wright.

The second phase of the plan, which will involve "finalizing proposals and beginning implementation," will begin between the February and April Board meetings.

In the third phase, which will conclude with the Board meeting in September, major savings initiatives will be implemented and the administration will "begin new revenue measures and key investments," according to the e-mail. During the final phase, the College will evaluate the process and make any necessary adjustments.

Kim has asked Kadish and Folt to lead the budget reduction effort, Kadish said, explaining that he will focus on administrative budget cuts while Folt will concentrate on academic concerns.

Kadish and Folt are working closely with associate vice president of fiscal affairs Julie Dolan, Kadish said.

"She's the person who is really the most on top of all of the numbers and how things work the nuts and bolts of the situation," Kadish said.

Dolan sits on The Dartmouth's Board of Proprietors.

Kadish and Folt said they have consulted with Keller.

"[Keller] certainly is really knowledgeable and has provided some great overall direction in terms of how to proceed," Kadish said.

Although Keller attended the Student Budget Advisory Committee meeting during the first round of budget cuts in the spring, he did not attend Wednesday's briefing, according to Vernon, who sits on the committee.

Although Folt and Kadish echoed Kim's previous statement that no across-the-board cuts will be made, they explained that the budget planning efforts will affect each division, department and school of the College.

The budget cut will require "serious downsizing," according to the e-mail, and future layoffs may include the elimination of faculty positions, Kadish said.

"Layoffs are not the first things on the table," Kadish said. "We're trying to look at the parts of the budget that are not layoff-related first, things that would make us more efficient.

The College may offer employees retirement incentives, an option that was available during the first round of layoffs.

"Incentives, like everything else, are also on the table," Kadish said.