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Tuesday, October 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

Schulz: WSU needs to save money, will tighten financial belt

WSU President Kirk Schulz, pictured here in 2016, says the university will enact a number of steps to control finances. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU President Kirk Schulz, pictured here in 2016, says the university will enact a number of steps to control finances. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Shanon Quinn Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Washington State University will introduce a new hiring process that will include a careful examination by executive personnel of all hiring requests and justification of the need to fill positions, according to a memo from university President Kirk Schulz, released Tuesday.

The new process, which Phil Weiler, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, said is not a moratorium on hiring, is one of seven strategies Schulz noted as ways to address the university’s depleted reserve funds, which have declined by 56 percent – about $115 million – since 2013, according to the memo.

“Because 85 percent of WSU’s costs are personnel-related … we will very carefully examine requests for new hires and out of cycle/retention increases,” Weiler wrote in an email. “We will ensure that our investments in human capital are both strategic and affordable.”

According to Schulz’s memo, the university has added about 745 positions during the past five years, leading to an increase in payroll expense of approximately $96 million annually. Schulz also wrote that the university funded salary increases for faculty, staff and graduate students in excess of the amount funded by the state.

Schulz wrote in his memo the state Legislature approved $13 million for salary increases for faculty and staff for the 2017-19 biennium, but while “the salary monies are much appreciated … they do not address the financial commitment the university made a few years ago to centrally fund pay increases for faculty, staff and graduate students in excess of the amount funded by the state.”

Schulz wrote he has authorized 1 percent salary increases for faculty, administrative professional staff and graduate students on appointment effective Jan. 1 and Jan. 1, 2019.

Schulz also wrote the university would continue to place a hold on any capital projects for which funding is not fully identified and in hand. Even projects for which funding is available may need to be delayed to avoid further spending down reserves, he wrote.

“The university’s expenditures have been exceeding revenues for some time,” Schulz said in the memo. “It quickly became apparent … Reversing this trend was essential to the university’s overall financial health.”

Examples of the deficit spending Schulz aims to put a stop to include construction of several buildings, such as the $60 million digital classroom facility, the $16 million Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, a $7.5 million public safety building and a $15 million art museum expansion.

Other costs that contributed to the declining reserves include startup expenses for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, building and personnel costs incurred by the athletics department and maintenance and operations cost not covered by the state, the memo said.

Weiler said WSU’s situation is not uncommon, as many universities alternate between saving and spending.

“The issue at hand … now is that we need to rebuild our central reserves after a period of spending,” he said.

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