The Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) Board of Trustees, at its June 30 meeting, approved $3.5 million in budget reductions and internal reallocations to proactively balance the university’s budget, given expected COVID-19 related reductions in state funding. Meeting remotely and using social distancing, the board’s approval of the 2020-21 Oregon Tech budget marks the beginning of what is expected to be at least a biennium of tight budgets, as the state gears up to meet the challenges of the virus and its impact on the health, employment, and income levels of Oregonians.
Oregon Tech’s president, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, described the decision-making process used to determine the amount and type of budget reductions and reallocations in order to reach a balanced budget. Cost-savings contributions from the various university divisions include reductions in budgets for services and supplies, administrative and classified employee furloughs and voluntary pay reductions, hiring deferrals, position eliminations, an early retirement package, and other reductions.
Brian Fox, vice president for Finance and Administration, noted that Oregon Tech receives approximately 40 percent of its budget from the state; thus, the financial health of the university and the state are intricately linked. The state has estimated that it will take at least four years to get back to pre-COVID employment levels, and up to a decade of structural deficits. The Finance and Facilities Committee of the Board voted earlier in the day on a work plan which includes convening in the fall to discuss a long-term financial plan to step down the university’s cost structure. These steps would be responsive to likely state funding reductions, and focus on reducing expenses and growing enrollment to meet increased demand stemming from the current recession and industry-linked degree programs Oregon Tech offers.
After discussing budget and finance issues, the board voted unanimously to approve Oregon Tech’s balanced budget for the next fiscal year.
Board chair Jessica Gomez said, “It is a tremendous accomplishment to achieve a balanced budget given the current environment. Organizations often wait too long to make budget adjustments in response to changing economic conditions, causing long term sustainability issues down the road. Oregon Tech is taking a proactive approach which will ensure our success now, and into the future. Faculty and staff have come together for our students during this crisis, remembering what is important to us and our community. The university is turning this crisis into an opportunity to refocus our energy and intent for the benefit of our students and their continued success.”
Dr. Tom Keyser, dean of the College of Engineering, Technology and Management and co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, presented the completed five-year strategic plan to the board, titled Oregon Tech Together. He reviewed the four pillars of the plan that emphasize Oregon Tech’s commitment to: Student Success, Innovation, Community, and Institutional Excellence. President Naganathan, who co-chaired the committee with Dr. Keyser, commended the efforts of the members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee who spent a year developing the plan and finding ways to convene the campus community to ensure that all voices were heard and valued as part of the plan development. Board members complimented the process and the plan’s content, which included measurable outcomes, and noted the importance of making sure it is a living, breathing document.
Board members also heard about the progress on the various capital construction and repair projects underway. The remodel of Cornett Hall is all but complete; the student recreation center will be completed this summer; and the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Technology is well underway, with most of the structural walls in place. Board vice chair Vincent Jones appreciated the increasing vibrancy the new capital construction brings about for Oregon Tech’s students. He noted that, as we move through the pandemic environment, the state will be looking for shovel-ready projects to support as a way to both advance economic development, and bring much-needed employment to area residents.