New budget process facilitates longer-term planning

Thanks to a new budget-building process adopted last fall by the Program and Budget Committee, the members of the Committee now have a means of more effectively linking planning with budgeting.

Up until this year's budget cycle, the Program and Budget Committee had only a few weeks to consider the myriad budget requests submitted annually from all units of the University. The lengthy budget hearing process required the Committee to spend long hours considering the most minute aspects of departmental budgets.

This year, however, the Committee began the process earlier, in September, by initiating conversations with the deans about the University's broader academic agenda, and with the deans and leaders of the service units about what resources are needed to support that agenda. After those conversations, the Committee members split up and went back to the schools or service units with which they work and went through an individual budget process with the staff in their areas. Committee members then synthesized that material and came back to the full Committee in December with recommendations about what needed to be done budgetarily in specific units to move the University forward in achieving the vision articulated in the earlier conversations.

"I would note two particular gains from the changes made in the process this year," said Provost Billy Frye. "First, by starting earlier, reducing the amount of time spent by the Program and Budget Committee in detailed budget hearings, it has given us the opportunity to be more thorough and thoughtful in considering our options and our priorities in the final and inevitable stage when we must bring expenditures into balance with available revenues. In the past this critical stage of reconciliation has often been too rushed to permit optimal results. Second, by avoiding excessive attention to the details, the Committee has been able to concentrate on the broad objectives of the focus on the house we are building more than upon the individual bricks of which it is made. This is absolutely essential if we are to make any sense out of the many needs and priorities that surface in the course of every budget cycle."

--Dan Treadaway

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