Cal U. continues to trim deficit

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California University of Pennsylvania officials announced the school has continued to whittle away at its budget deficit as well as managed to trim a couple million dollars in costs from an auxiliary-funded renovation project slated to begin this spring during the university’s board of trustees meeting Wednesday.


Acting Cal U. President Geraldine Jones said the university has decreased its 2012-13 deficit from $12 million at the start of the fiscal year to $2.9 million today.


“We still have work to do, and we have not given up,” she said. “We will continue to cut costs as we can without sacrificing our core mission, which is the education of our students.”


The current deficit is down from about $3.1 million as projected in August, according to Robert Thorn, vice president for administration and finance at Cal U.


After hearing these figures, Bob Irey, chairman of the board of trustees, said the school is “definitely heading in the right direction.”


With regard to campus improvements, a $33.3 million project to renovate and expand the Natali Student Center will begin construction after the spring 2013 commencement, Thorn said.


Slated for completion in July 2015, Thorn said a 31,000-square-foot addition will join the existing 97,000-square-foot building that will be renovated during a separate construction phase. Thorn said $2 million was trimmed from the cost of the solely auxiliary-funded project, which will be paid for through $28 million in bonds and $2.3 million in other revenue.


The student center may not be the only thing to grow this spring. After the university reported a 9.2 percent drop in enrollment this fall, applications for spring are up 4.9 percent from this point last year, according to Dr. Bruce Barnhart, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal U.


“As an early lead indicator, this is a good sign for spring,” he said.


Auditors from ParenteBeard presented their independent report, which shows the university’s year-end net assets are up from $1.8 million last year to nearly $2.5 million in 2012.


Dr. Michael Slavin, president of the Cal U. faculty union, gave a brief update on contract negotiations with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education during the public comment portion of the meeting. Last month, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties voted to allow negotiators to call a strike if necessary, but not until the spring semester. The union’s contract has been in dispute for about a year and a half.


“All that we’re asking for is what every other union got,” Slavin said.


Slavin pointed out that, while Cal U. has its own financial issues, the state system is sitting on $800 million in unencumbered funds.


“The state system is not broke,” Slavin said. “The state system is not in the same situation that California is in.”


Unrelated to contract negotiations, Slavin called for Jones to receive a new title. He said the title of interim president would be a better fit since there isn’t anyone the school is waiting for to return to the position.


“She should be respected for the position that she has,” Slavin said.


Dr. Craig Smith, president of the faculty senate at Cal U., who also spoke at public comment, asked the trustees to lower the quorum needed to conduct meetings of the universty’s forum, which he called “terminally inert.” Smith said the high quorum has caused delays in the forum’s ability to bring pressing matters before the university’s president.


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