A University of Wisconsin committee proposed a new budget model for the university that would allow for more flexibility and the ability to drive funding to departments as students flock to certain majors.
The Budget Model Review Committee released a white paper Tuesday which proposed possible changes to the university’s current budget model and compared it to other universities’ models.
The paper proposed four different types of budgets UW could follow, which include formula budgeting, zero-based budgeting, performance budgeting and incentive-based budgeting.
The committee’s website described these budgets as respectively allocating budgets based on an algorithm, clearing a previous year’s budget and requesting a new one each year, funding a budget based on enrollment with units meeting certain requirements or units being responsible for their own expenses, respectively.
UW currently uses incremental budgeting, which assumes the university’s goals will not change from year to year, the website said.
The white paper outlined problems with the current budget model, including a lack of incentives for academic units to involve themselves in financial planning, transparency concerns over resource decisions and the outcomes of those decisions and few clear financial incentives for innovation.
Darrell Bazzell, vice chancellor for finance and administration and head of the Budget Model Review Committee, said no changes have been made yet.
“The white paper made a case to change the current model [and] called for a follow-up team to consider different budget models,” Bazzell said.
Terry Warfield, department chair of accounting and information systems and Budget Model Review Committee member, said the current model does not have “too many flaws.”
“The current budget model is very good,” Warfield said. “It has a lot of great features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”
Bazzell said the changes concern how the university can or cannot incentivize good budgeting practices of specific units at the university. He said the new plan addressed in the white paper is to accommodate changes in campus priorities.
Trends in students’ majors and degree choices are changing in correlation with changes in the economy and job markets, which means certain departments are gaining more students and others are losing them, Bazzell said. This means certain departments need larger budgets than others, he said.
He said with the university’s current incremental budget, if students flock to certain majors over time, budget dollars do not follow that change. That is the main way students would be affected by this budget model, he said.
Both Bazzell and Warfield said it was too premature to predict effects of any new budget model since no changes were made to the current budget yet. Warfield said the effects from this new budget model would not be directly felt by students, as this new budget model cannot make decisions within specific units or schools within the university.
Warfield also said any specific changes made by the new committee called for in the white paper would not come into effect any time soon.
“It will probably be a three-to-five-year period,” Warfield said. “[Budget changes] have a pervasive effect on campus.”