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Project Title:Ad Hoc Budget Committee Dedicated to Communication and Cost Saving OpportunitiesInstitution Name:Eastern Connecticut State University Innovation Category:Operational Efficiency Project Director:James R. Howarth, Associate Vice President for Finance & AdministrationContact Information:(860) 465-4418, howarthja@easternct.eduWebsite:http://www.easternct.edu/budgetcommittee/
Project Description:Eastern Connecticut State University’s President Elsa Nunez established the institution’s Ad Hoc Budget Committee in January 2009 to provide assistance in addressing the fiscal challenges of higher education in a faltering economy.  The committee includes representation from each bargaining unit, faculty, and administration providing an environment for open communication on all budget related issues. Using the resources of the committee, we are able to discover innovative ways to manage the budget while operating in a transparent environment.
Objectives:
  • Present the current fiscal challenges to the University in a transparent environment.
  • To be effective the committee is informed of all known challenges to the University as they become known.
  • All members of the university community are represented.
  • To be inclusive of the entire University community, we have active committee members from each bargaining union, faculty, administration, and management.
  • Encourage and support new cost saving ideas.
  • To help foster new ideas, a program entitled Works $mart was introduced and is located on our website to collect cost saving suggestions from the entire university community.
Outcomes:
  • Ad Hoc Budget Committee Meetings are well attended and present the opportunity for discussion of relevant information in a timely manner.
  • University community is informed of our financial condition.
  • Committee Membership is broad based and provides a vehicle for financial information to be disseminated throughout the University.
  • Successful in efforts to reduce expenses; at the conclusion of the first full year of the Ad Hoc Budget Committee’s service, the University had been successful in reducing expenses by 11% of the operating expense budget. 
  • The ECSU Works $mart program was developed to solicit suggestions for expense savings for the University.
  • In the first year that Work $mart was introduced, the program generated over 100 suggestions for savings.
Challenges/Problems Encountered:
  • Minimum challenges were encountered as changes to current spending habits were addressed as significant savings potential.
  • The correlation of saving operating expenses to help preserve jobs was well understood.
  • When positions that were vacated through attrition were not filled, some resistance was experienced, however, the open communication at the Ad Hoc Committee and University Meeting was helpful to explain the impact. 
  • The number of suggestions from Work $mart decreased following the initial year and we are currently focusing on a re-launch of the program.
Evaluation Approach:
  • For a dedicated committee such as the Ad Hoc Budget Committee the success can be best measured in the savings experienced and jobs saved.
  • The University was able to reduce operating expenses by 11% in the first full fiscal year following the establishment of the committee.
  • No University employees were released to meet funding reductions.
  • Communication across the entire University Community has been strengthened.
Potential for Replication:Replication of this process is possible at any University with their success linked to the dedication of those involved and their ability to communicate across their entire University.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Elsa M. Nunez , Presidentnunez@easternct.edu
(860) 465-5221
Date Published: Monday, March 28, 2011