Budget Advisory Committee encourages open communication for budget cuts

Budget cuts have affected education throughout the state of Kansas over the last several years. Wichita State has had to work to reduce its budgets in order to ensure the costs are covered each fiscal year.

Wichita State President John Bardo wanted to be ahead of the game and created a new group focused on collecting ideas and advising the President’s Executive Team on suggested courses of action regarding university budgets.

The Budget Advisory Committee was formed in December 2016 to “encourage open communication with the campus regarding potential budget cuts,” according to the committee’s website.

Tony Vizzini, provost and senior vice president, said the committee was created in response to possible budget cuts in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.

“There’s a lot of questions that were coming up in terms of how to address [the budget],” Vizzini said. “We figured that involvement of the greater community would give us a better opportunity to determine different pathways, to be able to have open, transparent dialogue and get the community thinking about what we as a university are doing.”

Vizzini said the president’s office appointed members from each academic college, the division of student affairs, faculty senate, unclassified professional senate, university support staff senate, student government association, finance and administration and strategic communications to be on the committee. The committee has 27 members.

Vizzini and Werner Golling, vice president for finance and administration, were chosen to co-chair the committee.

Golling, who joined WSU in January, said the Budget Advisory Committee is similar to committees he has been apart of in the past.

“It’s a broad array of constituency to get greater input from the university,” Golling said.

Since its start, the committee has met 10 times and held a town hall, according to Vizzini.

The main committee has closed meetings to allow for discussion of sensitive information, but subcommittees were started to allow for an expedited process in discussing information, Vizzini noted.

“We then formed three working groups,” Vizzini said. “One in priorities, one in efficiency and one in revenue. Those three subgroups are basically open; anybody could participate in them.”

The committee then started an online collection site to allow students, faculty and staff to submit their ideas about reducing costs or increasing revenue. The site allows for submissions to be made anonymously if desired by the individual submitting the idea.

Golling said this idea has helped to reinforce the idea that all ideas are welcome.

“We want to make sure everyone has access to submitting their ideas and proposals,” Golling said.

Once the ideas are submitted they are reviewed by the appropriate subcommittee and some are posted on the website for community members to view and comment with their responses.

The ideas available for view by the public range from decreasing administration salaries to being more thrifty when using trash bags to a parking space raffle to support scholarships.

The committee plans to prioritize the ideas after the community has had time to review and discuss their thoughts regarding the suggestions. The committee will then forward their recommendations to the President’s Executive Team who will determine which ideas to implement.

“There’s no small ideas, everybody is welcome to [submit ideas],” Vizzini said “That’s the whole thing — you might not think much of an idea but put it out there and others may go, ‘Wow.’ Others may piggyback on it and all of a sudden you’ve got something that takes this and this together and go, ‘We hadn’t thought about this approach.’

“It can be revolutionary. It could change how we do business here. It could benefit us greatly. It could save us money. It could make us more efficient, make us better. The bottom line is, that’s the whole struggle — how do we take a limited set of resources and implement them in the best way possible to serve our students.”