Students at Fort Lewis College might escape paying for a tuition increase next year while faculty members look to get a 3% annual raise.
Those preliminary, not yet set-in-stone numbers emerged Thursday as trustees held a Zoom working session – getting an early peek at the 2021-22 budget.
During the meeting, trustees also got to test drive a new spreadsheet-type budgetary software package put together by school officials that allows users to project the financial implications of financial changes over a five-year period.
For example, the model allows trustees (or school executives) to project how much an investment of $500,000 in a new degree-offering program would impact the school over time. Users of the model could also get a fiscal estimate of what offering a salary increase would cost over time or how an increase in tuition might boost revenue.
Steve Schwartz, FLC vice president of finance and administration, said: “You can see how investments will play out versus risk tolerance, revenues and other financial factors.”
The model is not meant to be precise, Schwartz said, adding it includes many simplifying assumptions, but it is meant to give users a general idea of budgetary implications of proposed changes in everything from offering new degree programs, infrastructure improvements or changes in salaries and tuition.
FLC President Tom Stritikus told trustees he likely will recommend holding tuition flat when the formal budgeting process begins in April.
“Given what students have faced in the past year, we feel it is appropriate to recommend a 0% tuition increase for resident and nonresident students,” he said.
FLC is expected to adopt its final budget for the coming school year in June.
“It behooves us to get the message out there that we are open, we are doing vaccinations and by the way, you won’t be facing a tuition increase,” Stritikus said.
He also told trustees the administration plans to recommend a 3% salary increase for faculty.
Most FLC staff members are employed as classified state employees, and Schwartz said Gov. Jared Polis has recommended a 2% salary increase for them, but revenue projections are coming in better than expected, and the salary increase could come in as high as 3% for classified state employees.
Trustees also were told the school has just over $17.1 million in fund balance reserves, and trustees generally agreed with administration recommendations to keep a fund balance at between 20% and 30% of annual expenditures.
A consensus emerged of keeping the fund balance at about 25% of annual expenditures.