University leaders outline budget challenges

Steger (pictured at left) during the meeting

Steger (pictured at left) during the meeting

BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 18, 2009 – The university’s vice presidents and deans have been asked to adjust to major cuts in state support by reducing their budgets by 5 percent.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and senior university officials outlined the situation at a Feb. 17 meeting in the Burruss Hall Auditorium attended by more than 100 people. A second such meeting is planned for 11 a.m. Feb 18.

As of Dec. 17, the commonwealth projected a $2.9 billion shortfall in its biennial budget for the fiscal years 2008-09 and 2009-10. As the commonwealth addresses its budget gap, Virginia Tech expects to receive at least $42.5 million less in state appropriations for FY 2009-10 than budgeted for in FY 2007-08.

Layoffs, changes to programs, and the elimination of vacant positions may be necessary. Specifics will not be finalized until after the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors sets tuition and fees this spring, but at the Feb. 17 meeting Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee outlined some principles that will influence cost cutting decisions.

One of those principles dictates that non-tenured-tenure-track faculty not be laid off for budgetary reasons. Another is that departments, schools, and colleges narrow their “programmatic emphasis” while enhancing quality. All the principles, along with the full materials presented at the meeting, are available online. Watch the video

McNamee said the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, which is planning major structural and programmatic changes, will be allowed to offer retirement incentives, but other areas of Virginia Tech will not. McNamee said there will not be an across-the-board hiring freeze, though many units are leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Steger cited figures showing that higher education accounted for 11 percent of the commonwealth’s budget but 15 percent of the reduction outlined in the governor’s amendment to that budget. (The higher education category in the commonwealth’s budget includes some cultural institutions as well as colleges and universities.)

In October, Steger asked the deans and vice presidents of Virginia Tech’s university division to prepare for two scenarios for FY 2009-10 -- one requiring 3 percent cuts, the other 5 percent.

At that time he asked officials within the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station division to prepare for budget cuts of either 9 percent or 13 percent, but so far the state’s reduction in funding for that division has not been as severe as feared, so its officials are now to cut budgets by 5 percent.

Dwight Shelton, Virginia Tech’s vice president for finance and chief financial officer, said supporters of the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station did a good job making the case to preserve much of their funding.

University officials stressed that their projections of what appropriations Virginia Tech will receive next fiscal year are uncertain. For example, they do not include any revenue from the federal stimulus package that could be targeted to higher education in Virginia.

On the other hand, a stubbornly poor economy could lead the state’s budget situation to worsen. Steger said there are indications the state’s revenue projections will shrink by another $800 million.

Steger said he believed it important to keep the university community abreast of the budget situation even though the financial picture is still developing. He encouraged people with questions or suggestions to e-mail

See the video

Download the presentation