Pomona Tightens Belt in New Budget

Immediately after the 2008-2009 academic year, the Pomona College Board of Trustees convened on campus to plan the budget for the following year, as they do every May. Unlike at previous years’ meetings, however, this board had the daunting task of cutting $5.8 million for the upcoming year.In spring 2009, President David Oxtoby challenged each of Pomona’s six vice presidents to cut 10 percent from their budgets in order to meet the targeted savings.Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson, head of the Office of Facilities and Campus Services, played an important role in planning which areas to cut.“As far as I’m aware, this is the first time that the budget at Pomona has been less than the prior year,” Sisson said.The budget cuts reach far and wide and vary in size.One of the biggest cuts is the reduction in money transferred to the “renovation fund” from $4.7 million to $2.5 million a year. However, Sisson said this fund remains large enough to cover buildings that require renovation, such as Millikan, Thatcher, and Rembrandt.The next largest cut, and the one causing the biggest stir among students, is the $400,000 taken out of student wages through a reduction in the allotments given to on-campus student workers.Although this appears to be a substantial number, the cut is actually less than six percent of the $2.38 million allocated to student wages last year.Despite the outcry from students, Sisson said, “part of the way this issue got on the table was from students themselves, who reported that… some jobs were not as real a job [as others].”The amount of money allotted to dining this year was also cut substantially, with a savings target of $460,000. This number includes savings from cuts in food, which in turn include the new “carry-out” system as well as the school’s contract with food provider Sodexo. A estimated $30,000 of these savings come from the elimination of snack on Thursday nights alone, a decision made by the Budget Planning Advisory Committee (BPAC), with consideration given to input from student surveys.The office of Academic Affairs aimed to cut $655,000 from last year’s budget, saving $445,000 by not replacing professors on sabbatical this year. The Office of Planning cut $465,000 from last year’s budget, mostly by increasing the number of years that computers remain on campus from three to four.Other substantial cuts made this year include $60,000 from the Office of Admissions, $88,000 from the Office of Student Affairs, and $143,000 from Plant Operations.One part of the school that has not seen any cuts in their budget is the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), which receives its money from student fees and therefore is not affected by the endowment. ASPC President Jed Cullen PO ’10, one of the two student representatives on BPAC, said the ASPC will nonetheless allocate its budget differently this year.In addition to funding over 150 clubs on campus, ASPC hopes to support other programs that have lost funding. To do this, Cullen explained, ASPC was more conservative about how much money it gave to each of the clubs it funded at the beginning of this year, saving a total of almost $20,000.However, this number will most likely decrease as the year goes on.“We wanted to have a more substantial portion of our revenues unallocated until the fall, so we would have more flexibility down the road,” Cullen said.The net gain from all the budget cuts made this year will not be clear for quite some time. Sisson also suggested that meeting some of these targeted savings may prove more difficult than some might think.“I think the two things that are going to be difficult targets to meet will be the student wage reduction and the food services,” she said.Sisson and Cullen also both expressed the need for continuing reassessments of systems already in place.“We recognize that the way that we have it right now is far from perfect,” Cullen said of the new work-study program. “It really needs to evolve into something better, and that’s going to take time to work out.”The hope is that BPAC, which recommended many of the cuts made this year, will continue to meet to determine what cuts have worked, and what needs to be changed.UPDATE: The college budget suggests some areas where the administration targeted decreases in expenditures actually showed increases. These areas were faculty salaries, department and general, staff salaries, and employee benefits. It should be noted that many aimed reductions did not materialize into actual net savings year-over-year after various cost increases in those departments were taken into account.Alex Rudy contributed to this article.

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