Current as of September 24, 2009
Because we will have a variety of alumni and donors coming to campus for special events this afternoon and evening, I will be unable to attend Faculty Conference, so please consider the following as my update to faculty and staff alike.
While it was not widely noted in media reports, the S.C. Board of Economic Advisers met earlier this week, and decided to leave the state’s revenue estimates unchanged. After a series of reductions in estimates that in turn have led to a series of incremental reductions in our appropriated state support over the past 18 months, seeing a level revenue estimate is a welcome sight. It is not, however, a sign of optimism that full economic recovery is around the corner. In fact, economists both in state government and beyond are taking a cautious posture in regard to even using the term “recovery” in regard to current circumstances. That is reflected as well in the recent South Carolina revenue collections, which were up ever so slightly in July, but down again in August.
As previously reported to you, these earlier dips in revenue collection led the state to reduce Winthrop’s appropriation by another 4.04 percent, or $721,000. That means that only 13.1 percent of Winthrop’s annual revenue now comes from the State of South Carolina, and that situation is not likely to improve in the near term.
Perhaps most telling in the economists’ report is concern about how South Carolina will repay about $880 million it is on pace to borrow from the federal government this year to pay unemployment benefit claims, since the state trust fund is now empty as a result of the state having double-digit unemployment rates that have been among the highest in the nation for several months. While those figures have improved a bit over the summer, the chair of the economic advisers group believes there is another spike in joblessness ahead for South Carolina.
As a result of all these circumstances, legislators returning to Columbia in January will have to find revenue to begin repayment of the borrowed unemployment funds, as well as find a way to fund other state needs. Meanwhile, a special study commission is beginning to look at how the state can re-align state tax structure in the future, but some members are already saying no new revenue sources will be considered.
All these circumstances mean that for the foreseeable future, Winthrop will be continuing on our current budget path, which emphasizes protecting the quality of the student experience, investing in safety and security as necessary, and continuing work to attract and recruit our student body of the future. That approach has served us well throughout this period, and will continue to do so.
Let me extend thanks to all of you for your work during these uncertain times, and for getting this academic year off to a solid and productive start these past few weeks. Please know there are many wonderful stories to tell in that regard, and I will be doing that often this week with visiting alumni and donors, as well as with parents as Family Weekend takes shape in October.
Meanwhile, continuing appreciation for all you do for Winthrop.