budget for 2004-2005 has been approved. Although I have already met
with members of the University Senate and held an open forum with students,
I want to explain the budget-building process at Ozarks as well as to
highlight a couple of budget items that are of special interest to all
We have a 20-member on-campus committee that assisted
in developing next years budget. The committee was composed of
the five major campus constituencies: students, faculty, professional
staff, support staff, and administration. The committees priorities
were shared with the Presidents Staff and then forwarded to two
committees of the Board of Trustees the Finance Committee and
the Executive Committee for their approval. The full Board of
Trustees will be informed about the budget during our April Board meeting.
As you know from the past three Presidents
Post messages, developing this budget has been a difficult
challenge. There was much discussion, debate, and compromise, but the
end result is a fair and reasonable budget for next year, especially
considering the economic conditions locally, state, and nationwide.
I emphasize that this is a fair budget, and it is a fiscally responsible
Next years overall cost increase to students
will be 9.86%, an increase lower than last years. Most importantly,
our commitment of financial support to students, in regard to financial
aid, remains as strong. There will, however, be no employee salary increases
and that decision, in part, was to help keep the cost to students as
low as possible. Ozarks is a caring, compassionate community, and it
is important for students to know that our faculty and staff made a
sacrifice on your behalf in this budget. Students, you might want to
thank our employees for their sincere consideration of you. A Thank
You cannot be cashed, but it certainly is treasured.
We were also unable to absorb our health care increases
into the budget as we have in past years. Employees will experience
an increase in cost to maintain their current level of insurance benefits.
Health care costs and coverage remain a national crisis.
I firmly continue to believe that our budget issues
will be temporary. All institutions of higher education are experiencing
financial challenges, but Ozarks will emerge from this budget even stronger.
Over 30 campuses have closed within the past three years because they
were not strong enough to survive their financial conditions. We are
financially stable and set for the long run. And at Ozarks we are fiscally
responsible and will continue to be for decades to come.
Dr. Rick Niece