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Provost, VP of Finance discuss Mills financial future

The continuing global financial crisis has had effects on Mills, and those effects will continue for some time. President Holmgren has communicated with all Mills constituencies as the budget analysis has progressed. She has met several times with various groups, answered questions in open forums, and informed the community by email letters. We will continue to provide clear information to students, staff, and faculty.

Let us first note that the overall budget is approved at the February meeting of the Board of Trustees, with some adjustments at the May meeting. We expect changes in plans as circumstances change. These circumstances include the changes in the endowment level and the receipt of new gifts. One circumstance we do not expect to change is the reduction of $1 M in operating costs (non-salary) for 2009-10; this reduction was effected in 2008-09 and will be maintained next year.

The President has submitted to the Board a plan with no cost-of-living increase for all staff and faculty salaries. This “flat carry forward” is consistent with the Bay Area Consumer Price Index of zero percent for 2008. The President has also submitted a continued implementation of the faculty salary plan, which includes funding the changes in rank and in rank step as recommended by the Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committee. The Provost will reallocate funds from other academic budget lines for these increases and for the hiring of three faculty members to fill critical positions, so that the total faculty salary budget will remain constant. Those reallocations are being made in close consultation with departments, to minimize the impact on the academic programs.

For staff compensation, the President has approved the reallocation of funds to cover potential and necessary promotion or retention increases for staff members. These funds are for all the staff members on the campus. This will allow for emergency situations and for the need to retain and promote existing staff members to cover mission critical tasks when there are vacancies, or to offer retention increases to staff members in critical positions who receive employment offers from outside of
Mills College.

Anticipating further potential declines in endowment value and planning for the impact of reduced endowment payout in subsequent years, the President has asked college officers to present various cost saving scenarios for the salary and benefits budget, which is about 50% of the total operating budget. These contingency plans would enable the college to implement other savings if a combination of reduced endowment payout, loss of net tuition revenue, or drop in unrestricted gifts should require further expense reductions. The planning for these contingencies is just prudent management, which Mills has always advocated and which has placed us in a sound financial position overall, during this time of global contraction. There continue to be significant and potentially adverse financial conditions outside of our control, and we need to be ready to respond if they affect Mills.

Throughout all our planning, the educational mission of Mills College is our highest priority. The educational mission requires that we support the faculty and the students. Support of the Mills staff is crucial to the functioning of both faculty members and students. We support the faculty by maintaining the salary plan and by filling critical faculty vacancies. We support the students by supporting the faculty and by continuing to provide student financial aid. No reductions in financial aid are planned, and the 2008-09 increase of $500,000 will continue into 2009-10, bringing the projected total financial aid for undergraduates to about $15.5 M. Every attempt will be made to keep increases in tuition, fees, and housing costs to a minimum.

A letter about tuition and other student expenses will be issued after approval by the Board of Trustees.