How to Make Sense of Interim President’s Gloom and Doom

November 25, 2019 / Jose Padin

A few days ago, on November 14, we received an email communication from Interim President Percy telling us that departments need to plan for 2% budget cuts based on a 7.5 million dollar budget shortfall, while AAUP has been communicating about 27 million dollar surplus. Something doesn’t add up!

Portland State University administration has a habit of creating budgets at the beginning of a fiscal year that create the impression the sky is falling.

However, for the last 6 years, when the fiscal year is done, Portland State University has a surplus.

  • The size of the surplus after the books closed on June 30, 2019 this year was $27 million.
  • When the books closed at the end of the five previous fiscal years, there were also budget surpluses for a total of another $26 million.

Why does our examination of PSU books looks so different than the story coming from President Percy?

The answer is simple: we are reporting on two different numbers:

PSU-AAUP is reporting on actual expenses. At the end of the last year fiscal year (FY 2019, books closed June 30), the net revenue (revenue minus expenses) reported in PSU's end of-year budget actuals was 27 million dollars. 

President Percy and the PSU administration are reporting on their projected budgets — which is their guesswork for the year ahead.

PSU consistently starts the year with a doom and gloom budget, calling for budget cuts across campus: However, over the last six years, when the numbers are totaled, instead of deficits, PSU ends with surpluses.

Should we believe the projected budget shortfall for 2020, when they have been wrong for the last six years? It is time that faculty, staff, and students seriously question PSU administration’s practice of pessimistic, crisis scare-mongering budgeting.

It is also time we take assume our responsibility as stewards of the public trust and take a serious look at how PSU budgets and spends.

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