Over the course of two days of meetings, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents addressed several UW System changes, including the implementation of a new financial management program to increase transparency and accountability of UW’s financial records.
The financial management approach introduced by UW System President Ray Cross will take factors such as enrollment levels, taxpayer funding and tuition income into account to better forecast finances, eliminating as many “surprises” as possible.
“Our goal is that you will have greater confidence in how we are managing the university’s finances,” Cross told the board Thursday.
The proposed approach aims to look at the system’s many financial commitments, including future spending plans and designated funds over a longer period of time, Cross said. By using a longer viewing period, the system could identify financial trends that cannot be spotted on the shorter time frames of one or two years that are currently being used.
The current time window’s narrow view has made it more challenging to capture significant trends, some of which have been harmful, Cross said. The new approach will look at records over a five or six year period.
“In the future, we are going to be looking at rolling five or six year time frames,” Cross said. “This will allow us to better capture those trends and more accurately evaluate how critical pieces in our budget interact to form the whole.”
The board announced that the UW System ended the third quarter of this fiscal year with $1.7 billion and is likely to end the fiscal year with $1.1 billion.
For fiscal year 2013, roughly 3 percent, or $38 million, of system funds were held in flexible funds without clear documented plans, UW System Senior Vice President David Miller said. These undeclared and undocumented funds drew heavy criticism from the Wisconsin Legislature earlier this year.
During the meeting, Cross also addressed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to extend the current UW tuition freeze for an additional two years. Cross highlighted the importance of keeping tuition and other costs minimal for Wisconsin’s students, but said it was key to devise a well thought-out, reasonable plan to address tuition costs.
“I intend to work vigorously to find a reasonable solution. I am confident that we can get the best budget possible for the university,” Cross said.
Following up on his commitment to connect and listen to the voices of the people of Wisconsin, Cross gave a report on his meetings and conversations with students, faculty, legislators and members of various UW communities.
Board of Regents President Michael Falbo released the names of four new regents appointed by Walker at the meeting. The new members include two student regents: Nicolas Harsy, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at UW-Madison, and Anicka Purath, a sophomore majoring in political science at UW-La Crosse.
Falbo said the search was continuing for chancellors at UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW Colleges and UW-Extension.
As the board prepares for its vote on the 2014-2015 annual budget this June, members were briefed on the new financial models that will be used to plan the budget.
“Our whole purpose is to prepare you and help you feel comfortable with what we’re doing as an organization and to be open about where we are and where we’re going,” Cross said.