There’s been a lot of excitement about the offer of Board Early Separation Incentives (BESIs), and while the bargaining unit leadership has been supportive, there has also been some concern about why we are offering BESIs at this time. Is Winona State in immediate financial trouble? The short answer to that question is no, but we do have some budgetary challenges looking forward. The main reason we decided to offer a BESI now is that it will give us financial flexibility in the face of ongoing uncertainty. The biggest of these uncertainties is future enrollment given the declining number of high school seniors in Minnesota, but other variables include inflation, tuition revenue, and the level of state support after this biennium.
We are grateful that the Minnesota Legislature approved a tuition freeze that helps keep us affordable for our students by funding an offsetting appropriation, but that won’t address all potential future challenges. Although still high by historic standards, our enrollment was down slightly this fall, and our enrollment forecasts and other expense predictions cause us to estimate that we might have a deficit in our annual budget of approximately $1.5 million dollars in fiscal year 2015. Because we do not plan to lay off any employees, we need to find other ways to make this up in the budget. Our Finance and Facilities Committee recommended that WSU offer another BESI round as an initial step to make up the budget difference. We then consulted with all the bargaining units, and based on those consultations the Cabinet decided to proceed with a BESI offer.