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July 20, 2001

Geoffroy: Plant sciences is the economic opportunity for Iowa

by Diana Pounds
We begin the year $21.8 million behind where we were last year." That's how President Gregory Geoffroy sums up the new budget year that began July 1.

Repercussions of the lean budget include lost positions and cutbacks in programs and services.

"Virtually no part of the university has been spared entirely," Geoffroy said. But Iowa State's new president says there are some positive numbers in the new budget. He notes:
  • An anticipated $12 million increase in tuition dollars, thanks to record enrollments, higher retention of current students and a tuition increase.
  • Better recovery of indirect costs on research grants, which is expected to bring in another $2 million.
  • And the $11 million in new or reallocated funds that will improve student learning, research and outreach programs.
Geoffroy discussed the effects of budget cuts on Iowa State in remarks prepared for the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, meeting, held earlier this week in Cedar Falls. His speech can be found at Following are highlights from that talk.

Sticking with the strategic plan
In difficult times, strategic decisions are most important, Geoffroy said. Iowa State's top strategic planning goal enhanced learning will draw $6.75 million in new or reallocated funds this year. The money will fund more sections for over-enrolled courses, additional student scholarships and financial aid, learning communities, study abroad programs, distance education and campus safety initiatives.

Another $2.9 million will be directed toward research and outreach programs. Among new allocations in these areas is $985,000 to stimulate research and support new faculty and $300,000 for the Plant Sciences Institute.

Maintain plant sciences momentum
The Plant Sciences Institute is so important to the university and the state "that we dared not let it lose momentum," Geoffroy said. When a university request for increased state funding for the institute was unsuccessful, "we added $300,000 to the institute's base budget through internal reallocation," Geoffroy said. He added he'll seek additional state funding for the institute in FY03.

"It is Iowa's big opportunity to become a major factor in shaping the future of agriculture and bringing large-scale economic opportunity to the people of Iowa," he said.

The numbers
Iowa State's general fund budget for FY02 totals just over $407 million, an increase of about $9 million from last year. The increase reflects additional revenue Iowa State will accrue through tuition and enrollment increases, additional indirect cost reimbursements, other sales and services, and the salary increase appropriation.

Unfortunately, the university started FY02 about $21.8 million behind FY01 because of reductions in state funding and unavoidable cost increases, Geoffroy said. The $21.8 million shortfall is the result of:
  • A $15.8 million reduction in the state appropriation to Iowa State.
  • $2.6 million in un-funded health care cost increases from last year.
  • $2.4 million in mandatory costs increases.
  • $500,000 in reduced support for special projects devoted to outreach, training and disease research.
  • A $600,000 difference between the state appropriation for salary and benefit increases and the real cost of the increases.
The shortfall will be covered through increases in tuition and other revenue, savings from a university-wide energy conservation program, and a variety of budget-cutting measures in individual departments.

Losing ground on salaries
An $11 million increase in the state salary appropriation fell about $600,000 short of funding pay hikes and anticipated double-digit increases in health costs for ISU employees. Internal reallocation of revenue increases (in tuition and indirect costs recovery) made up the difference.

Merit staff will receive average pay hikes of 3 percent plus step increases, as awarded under the union contract, yielding a 5.7 percent average increase.

Pay hikes for faculty and Professional and Scientific staff are expected to average 3.8 percent. (Units received 3.5 percent for pay raises, but the average raise traditionally is slightly higher, because lower-paid employees tend to get higher percentage increases.)

Iowa State is losing ground in salary competitiveness for faculty and some P&S staff, Geoffroy said. "And addressing this must be one of the university's top priorities."

166 FTE positions lost
Budget cuts resulted in the elimination of 166 FTE positions. That figure includes 134 positions that were open and 32 layoffs. The layoffs involve 17 Merit positions and 15 P&S staff; no faculty were laid off. Of the 166 dropped positions, 67 are faculty positions, 62 are P&S and 37 are Merit positions.

In addition, 48 graduate assistant-ships will be eliminated. "This comes at a very bad time," Geoffroy said, "because the competition for top graduate students in areas such as engineering, science and technology (which are among ISU's strengths) is very high."

Other cuts
A variety of other budget-cutting measures are under way across campus, Geoffroy said. For example, fewer courses will be offered and some classes will be larger. Maintenance work on buildings will be reduced. Computer labs will be open fewer hours. There will be less support for grant writing and external funding proposals. Research projects will be dropped.

Reductions will hit Extension particularly hard, Geoffroy added, resulting in the closing of two area offices (Cedar Rapids and Mason City) and cutbacks in programs for Iowa families, farmers and young people.

"Dealing with a reduction of this magnitude is difficult and painful," Geoffroy said. "But we have a solid strategic plan. We'll continue to seek out opportunities and ways to improve what we do."

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