Current as of April 18, 2012
The S.C. Board of Economic Advisers met in Columbia today and confirmed that state revenue flows are meeting targets for the year. In fact, review of the data provided as part of that meeting shows revenue is flowing to the state a bit better in most general fund categories than estimates had predicted.
That is a positive indication that the economy is continuing to recover somewhat in South Carolina. While legislators are not ready to loosen the reins significantly on operating funds, recent years’ series of reductions to state agency appropriations seems to have reached an end.
The House-adopted budget plan now pending in the Senate includes no increases in operating funds for higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It does, however, include some one-time funds for use on campus maintenance projects at Winthrop and $500,000 for Winthrop technology needs.
Senate Finance Committee members have been awaiting the revenue collection figures provided in today’s BEA report, and can be expected to begin finalizing their version of the budget over the next couple of weeks. For many years, the Senate would have a larger overall revenue base to work with in its budget planning, but that changed in the recession years, when the revenue estimates would continue to decline as the legislative session wore on.
The improved revenue picture this year has created some good news: State employee salaries remain targeted for a 2% increase – the first increase since the Great Recession began. The amount allocated by the General Assembly in this process does not include funds sufficient to cover all full-time higher ed employees, however, so Winthrop will need to identify between $700,000-$750,000 in additional funds for this purpose. Health insurance rates will not be set by state officials until later in the year, so it is too soon to tell how the salary increase and health insurance rates will balance out.
Similarly, the General Assembly has under consideration a bill that proposes major changes to the regular state retirement system because of concerns about its long-range sustainability as presently structured. The House has adopted that bill, H. 4967, which is now pending in the Senate. The most recent version of that bill can be reviewed by clicking here.
Once the Senate adopts its version of an appropriation plan, the bill will go back to the House, then likely be headed to a conference committee to work out any remaining differences with the House. After a compromise is agreed to, the bill will go to Governor Nikki Haley for possible vetoes, which the General Assembly will vote to sustain or override to finalize a spending plan for all of state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Winthrop develops its spending plan in part on the final state appropriation number, so tuition recommendations cannot be determined until after the veto session finalizes the state funding available.
As for the other part of our revenue picture, as I’ve often said, we don’t predict enrollment until we count suitcases in August. But I can tell you that preliminary indicators from admissions events so far this year are positive. On Saturday, Winthrop will host the last of its Preview Days for this academic year. Many thanks to all who have made themselves available for Preview Days and other Admissions events throughout the year. Spirited faculty and staff participation on these occasions helps prospective students and families experience the high level of engagement and caring that is evident here daily, and goes a long way toward helping students imagine themselves as a part of the campus community. This support for our student recruitment program is much appreciated.
In other matters, last Friday the chair of our Board of Trustees, Dalton Floyd named a Search and Selection Committee and charged it with responsibility to bring forth the names of three to five candidates who have the right mix of attributes to become the tenth president of Winthrop in Summer 2013. The Board of Trustees will make the final selection. Winthrop is developing a set of web pages that will keep both the campus community and the general public updated on the progress of the search, as well as providing opportunities for on-line input about the qualities and characteristics that the next president of Winthrop should have. Everyone will be notified when those web pages are available.
As we head into the final days of this semester and the academic year, I am tremendously proud to see some of the year-end work that our students are doing, which is a reflection of the dedication of our faculty and staff to their development both academically and personally. This is always an affirming time of year for all of us, and we will have wonderful opportunities to experience that affirmation yet again over the next several days.
As always, many thanks for all you do individually and collectively to make Winthrop the special place that it is.