Volume 6  Issue # 13
Monday, March 22, 2004

The President's Post
       The 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 of you.
   We have a 20-member on-campus committee that assisted in developing next year’s budget. The committee was composed of the five major campus constituencies: students, faculty, professional staff, support staff, and administration. The committee’s priorities were shared with the President’s 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 “President’s 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 budget.
   Next year’s overall cost increase to students will be 9.86%, an increase lower than last year’s. 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

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