Changes and Plans Arising Out of the Self-Evaluation Process: Budgeting and Funding Transparency
This issue that arose out of the College’s internal examination that led to the Institutional Self-Evaluation Report (ISER) involved the creation of a process that would “provide a greater degree of knowledge and understanding throughout the College community regarding the budgeting process. The ultimate goal is to achieve a higher level of understanding, participation and transparency in the creation of the College’s annual budget and in the annual expenditure of the College’s funds.” Specifically, this project contained the following three goals: 1) Create a system for effectively educating all constituent groups and employees about budget and planning processes; 2) Create a clear, logical, and detailed description and flow chart of the process for budget creation; 3) Develop a web-based tool that provides all College constituent groups and employees easy access to the status of resource allocation requests during each year’s budgeting process.”
Shortly after the College received the Commission’s “External Evaluation Report” and “Action Letter” in January 2018, indicating the Commission’s acceptance of the ISER, the College created a Task Force to develop a system to address the specific enumerated items listed above. The Budget Planning Revision Task Force began meeting in the summer of 2018 and utilized the “interest-based” approach to problem solving in order to arrive at a system and a process that addressed the concerns of each of the constituent groups. Members of the Task Force included representatives from the College administration, Business Office, faculty from each College division, and staff members and, specifically and purposefully, also included representatives from the faculty and staff labor organizations (CP.1). On 27 February 2019, the Task Force completed its work and recommended the creation of a standing Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) that would begin its work in May 2019 and continue that fall (CP.2). In keeping with the spirit of including “all constituent groups”, the BAC included members from faculty, staff, administration, and labor organization groups and, beginning that August, met every other week (CP.3).
The BAC’s primary responsibilities are organized through its annual calendar (CP.4). The bulk of the BAC’s work includes the following:
- The creation of an “Annual Budget Outlook Statement” (CP.5, CP.6). The statement includes a review of the previous year’s goals to assess the degree to which they were attained. A summary of these statements appears on the BAC webpage for the college and community to review.
- The review of specific programs through a budget audit process. The committee identifies a limited number of programs to be audited in detail each year, in accordance with a schedule that allows for all of the college’s programs to undergo an audit on a regular basis (CP.7, CP.8, CP.9).
- The finalization of the upcoming year’s recommended budget priorities through the BAC “Program Budget Recommendations” document (CP.10, CP.11). The “Recommendations” documents are then forwarded to the vice president of administrative services (VPAS) and college Cabinet for use in developing the annual and long-term budget assumptions. These are then communicated out to the College community (CP.20, CP.21, CP.22, CP.23).
As indicated in the “Calendar” document, the BAC works with other committees on campus, including the Program Viability Committee that deals with program initiation and revitalization under AP 4020 and AP 4021, the Program Review Committee, and the Institutional Effectiveness Committee.
As part of the College’s commitment to budget transparency the Program Review Committee (PRC), beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, began to apply a specific rubric to rank the program plans that contain resource requests (CP.12, CP.13, CP.14, CP.15). The PRC’s ranked plans and corresponding resource requests are then sent to the Dean’s Council to determine what can be funded through the Dean’s cost centers (i.e. division discretionary and categorical budgets). After that, the ranked list is then sent to the Executive Cabinet to determine what ought to be funded from the plans and resources that remain unfunded from the list (CP.19). The status of the requests is then transparently posted to the College website (CP.16, CP.17). The entire process is outlined graphically on the College’s website (CP.18). The determination to rank program plans, rather than specific resource requests, represents a change from the way the College handled this in the past. The new process allows for better integrated planning—the PRC-ranked plans inform the Annual Planning process—and also permits a larger discussion about more cost-effective ways to achieve planning goals because the focus is not on ranking and acquiring the specific resources but rather achieving the larger program planning actions.
Analysis and Evaluation
The College has met its three stated obligations. The creation of the BAC, with membership from all stake-holding groups, establishes the kind of transparency and budget education that is part of the first objective. The reports that the BAC generates, especially its published calendar, satisfies the second objective. Lastly, the PRC’s efforts to rank program plans creates a transparent system for resource allocation and all employees at the College can access the status of their requests on the PRC webpage.