Budget oversight moves to finance division, builds in collaboration

Oversight for the university's operating budget has moved from the president's office, where it had been since 2012, to the office of the senior vice president for finance. In February, interim senior vice president Pam Cain appointed a six-member institutional budget management (IBM) team to lead the budget process. This spring, that assignment includes:

  • Adjusting the current year's budget in response to a state funding reduction of $10.9 million, to be shared by Iowa State and the University of Iowa
  • Developing the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1
  • Proposing changes to the 10-year-old resource management model

Institutional Budget Management team

  • Scott Holloway, finance
  • Tammy Michel, president's office
  • Ellen Rasmussen, finance
  • Ellen Reints, academic affairs
  • Pat Strah, university services
  • Bonnie Whalen, student affairs

IBM team members meet several times a week and represent all five divisions: academic affairs, student affairs, finance, university services and the president's office.

Cain said an open and collaborative budget-building process will rely on input from all corners of campus and routinely share information with a broad audience. She will use budget memos authored by her and senior vice presidents Martino Harmon (student affairs) and Jonathan Wickert (academic affairs) to communicate with campus leaders, including the Faculty Senate and Professional and Scientific Council.

More people involved

In addition to discussions with top-level leaders across campus, Cain said the IBM group will work regularly with the student affairs division's enrollment research team to better use enrollment projections to estimate tuition revenue. It also will turn to a group she calls operations and finance colleagues -- 29 professionals whose jobs include budget responsibility. They work in all the colleges and divisions, Ames Laboratory, athletics and extension. Cain said they'll be consulted on topics as varied as budgets, policies or Workday.

"We identified people in the right places to inform the process," Cain said. "Everyone is stepping up, which is just great."

Ultimately, anyone at the university can provide ideas or suggestions through an email address, budget@iastate.edu, which goes to IBM members. Questions and ideas are welcome, Cain said.

"We really want input from all over campus. We're looking for a very collaborative process."

President's message

President Wendy Wintersteen's update to the university community on this week's FY18 state funding cut.

Simple, predictable

Cain said her top goals are to create a budget that reflects Iowa State's strategic goals and prioritizes productivity, innovation and excellence. She also wants to streamline what has become an unwieldy process and make it more understandable for all. For example, the IBM team would like to simplify the formula that allocates tuition dollars among the colleges and departments. With tuition now making up 70 percent of revenues in the general fund operating budget, it's important. It's also a complex but imperfect process, Cain said.

Bigger picture

Of Iowa State's $1.5 billion total budget this year, about 43 percent of it -- $653 million -- is set under the budget model, Cain said. The other $847 million is in restricted budgets, either due to directed state funding or because it's in an auxiliary unit such as residence, athletics, recreation services or the bookstore.

And Cain noted the $653 million operating budget has little flexibility, with 61 percent of it committed to salaries and benefits, 18 percent going to student financial aid and another 5 percent paying for utilities. That leaves 16 percent for "everything else," she said.

One of the ideas the IBM team is studying is an "all funds" approach to budgeting to better understand all revenue sources -- not just the general fund -- and whether efficiencies are possible. A decision on that option hasn't been reached yet.