I am pleased to report to you that our Board of Regents approved the University's budget for the 2010 fiscal year (1 July 2009-30 June 2010) at their quarterly meeting at the end of March. As I indicated in my previous two letters to the community, this budget reflects the hard work of many hands and input from numerous constituencies. I am also pleased to report to you that the Regents expressed great satisfaction with our progress on the budget for the present fiscal year ending 30 June.
It is critically important, as we work through this difficult economic period together, that we communicate frequently and effectively. Besides weekly meetings of the Executive Cabinet, I have also held monthly meetings with the chair of the Board of Regents and the chair and vice chair of the board's Finance Committee to keep them apprised of our progress. My letters to the community in November and February outlined the University's response to both the 2009 and 2010 budgets, and, in January, the provost, the vice president for finance and technology and I gave a presentation to the deans and Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate. Meetings were also held with the Priest Community and the collective bargaining units.
In constructing the coming year's budget, we have tried to be responsive to unprecedented economic volatility in the world's financial markets and the deepening recession. We have been committed to collaborative planning and strategic prioritizing of all our resources and needs, and, above all, we have tried to be very sensitive to the impact which the economy has had on every member of our community. The 2010 budget represents a carefully constructed road map, and it is fair to say that we are in good fiscal shape and headed in the right direction.
Some of the salient features of that road map include the following:
- We have worked very hard to achieve a $7.85 million reserve in order to offset unanticipated shortfalls in revenue -- including tuition, investment and state appropriations -- as well as possible increased costs in healthcare benefits, capital repairs and utilities. We have budgeted conservatively and we will continue to live within our means, following the Board's clear directives.
- Difficult decisions had to be made as we worked to balance the FY 2010 budget: you all know this. But I am pleased to report that we have succeeded thus far in considering a wide range of alternatives to avoid any job loss.
- Our Hiring Review Committee continues to meet on a regular basis to monitor requests for new staff and administrative personnel and the Office of the Provost is monitoring faculty hiring, as well.
- I am also grateful to the Faculty Senate: both in February and March, the faculty voiced their commitment to work collaboratively to strengthen recruitment and retention efforts and to generate new revenue with innovative programming and grant support.
- The Budget Working Group, comprised of the Executive Cabinet, the chairs of the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association and a representative of the deans, will continue to meet over the coming months to monitor progress on the new budget and -- should it turn out that we do not have to rely on all the contingencies we have built into it -- the group will advise me on how we might return monies to divisional budgets in the most strategic manner possible. Having read the many suggestions that you have submitted, both for revenue generation and cost containment, I have distributed them to every division of the University and thank you for the thoughtfulness and creativity that your suggestions represent.
- We continue to track applications, admissions and deposits regularly, indeed on a daily basis. Like every other college president in the country, I will not know until the fall whether we have achieved our numbers. But know how grateful I am to those who have worked so hard to boost enrollment and the quality of our incoming students.
- Our values and priorities as an academic institution will not only be preserved in the coming year but enhanced, as all of us look for creative ways to advance the educational mission of Seton Hall for another year. We will continue to make the strengthening of our academic programs a priority -- and this priority will be reflected in the University's new strategic plan and in the budget decisions we make during the 2010 fiscal year and beyond.
As president, I can assure you that I have seen an increase in mail from parents and students, as have our vice presidents and deans, seeking answers to practical and difficult questions about how we are dealing with this troubling economic environment. I am committed to providing information promptly and clearly, as are my colleagues in every division of the University.
I am grateful that our campus community is weathering this storm in ways that guarantee the strategic safety of Seton Hall. I am confident that the steps that you and I -- that we-- are taking together will move our University forward through these difficult waters to safer harbor.
Monsignor Robert Sheeran, 23 April 2009