University budget issues prompt conference

Amid statewide budgetary shortfalls the Student Government Senate, Faculty Senate and USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida (USF UFF) want to know whether the University’s funds are being spent appropriately.

On Jan. 22 at 2 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, Temple University physics professor Leroy Dubeck is scheduled to address their concerns — particularly those Dubeck pointed out surrounding the $240 million left untouched in USF’s unrestricted reserves — in an open press conference titled “What do we need to know about USF’s budget?”

Before the conference, Dubeck will review USF’s budget in what Sen. Daniel Shelnutt called “a search for transparency from the University of South Florida Administration.” The three organizations — SG, Faculty Senate and USF UFF — spent a combined $6,000 for Dubeck to visit and conduct his review.

The administration, however, did not take Dubeck seriously in 2008, and some do not believe he is qualified to audit the budget in 2009.

On Nov. 6, University Provost Ralph Wilcox and President Judy Genshaft said, “(Dubeck) doesn’t have credentials that show that he is efficient with budgeting.”

Though Dubeck’s background is in physics, he is the author of the National Education Association’s Budget Handbook and other college and university budgeting texts, is a former member of the Business and Finance Committee on Temple University’s Board of Trustees and served as a national presenter on budget analysis for the American Council of Education.

Wilcox said Tuesday that he stands by his previous comments and still does not agree with Dubeck’s appointment to review the budget.

“We have an internal budget review process and a budget advisory committee of our own that is appropriately in place at our university,” Wilcox said. “The University engages the administration, faculty and students in that review.”

SG Senate President Pro Tempore Jerry Trotter said Dubeck believes the system in place at USF is allowing the administration to keep money stashed away in a time of need.

“Dubeck feels, from what I understand, that the University has an unnecessary amount of money in various accounts,” Trotter said.

Trotter said he has spoken with administrators,  and said they feel it is important to have  extra money in USF’s reserve accounts because USF could likely lose $20 million to $30 million in next year’s budget.

Wilcox said some of the reserve money cannot be touched because  it co promises   non-recurring, carry-forward funds. Non-recurring funds are one-time deposits that may not be available next year.

Trotter and Sen. Kelly Johnson said SG understands that if too much money from the reserves is spent, interest rates go up.

At the same time, Johnson said, if the University does not spend the money in this time of need, when will it?

Wilcox said the University “has a plan” and has started spending some of the reserve money for the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters, but must spend it in a judicious manner — without “giving in to the whims of a variety of minority groups and representatives.”

“We have to look at the best interest of the University first,” he said.