President John D. Welty says the 2012-13 academic year will be a time of unprecedented uncertainty at Fresno State and also one of great opportunity to make historic changes to help sustain the university’s mission in the future.

In his annual Fall Assembly address on Friday, Aug. 17, Welty lauded employees for their dedication “to provide opportunities for students to achieve their dreams.”

But he added, “Keeping that in mind will be particularly important in what we know will be a challenging year that will test our ability as a university community to stay focused on our priorities and our mission.”

The biggest uncertainty for Fresno State and the 22 other California State University campuses, Welty said, is Gov. Brown’s tax initiative, Proposition 30. If voters don’t approve the measure, it would trigger a cut of $13.2 million from Fresno State’s current 2012-13 fiscal plan. The entire CSU system would lose $250 million.

If the measure passes, Fresno State and the CSU would have essentially the same budget this year as it did last year.

The CSU Board of Trustees will decide next month how to address a trigger cut, should it occur.

One option would preserve student access through a combination of tuition increases, employee pay and benefits cuts and other actions. The other option would keep tuition stable, but require pay and benefits cuts for employees, cut 40 employees from Fresno State and deny enrollment to about 350 students.

Welty said the university has “been attempting to be frugal since 2008-09 in an effort to avoid layoffs and the need to make sudden changes in expenditures that would disrupt our university environment even more than has already occurred.”

“We have sufficient reserves and carry-forward dollars to allow us this year to keep divisions, schools and colleges at the same budget level as last year,” Welty added.

To protect the university, Welty said, “We have set aside about $7.2 million from central reserves and $6 million in carry-forward dollars … to absorb the immediate reduction.”

“Then, we will need to address the long-term consequences of an ongoing base budget reduction in excess of $13.2 million, which, of course, is on top of the dramatic reductions we have endured since 2008-09,” Welty added.

“As we enter this period of extraordinary uncertainty, I believe we have positioned ourselves as well as could be expected,” Welty said.

As it begins its 102nd year, Fresno State will welcome its biggest freshman class – 3,100 students – and overall enrollment will be up about 700 students to 22,400. However, enrollment has been frozen for the spring 2013 semester in case the tax-hike initiative fails.

Welty also listed some noteworthy recent accomplishments at Fresno State:

  • Strong first-year and second- to third-year student retention rates.
  • More than 1.1 million hours of volunteer service from the campus for the third straight year.
  • Fresno State faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows working on headline-making physics breakthroughs in Switzerland.
  • National recognition for Fresno State’s leadership in water technology, access and management.
  • The Campaign for Fresno State reaching 96 percent of the goal with over $192 million.
  • A robust $41 million in research and sponsored programs with 246 new grants this past year.
  • One hundred classrooms updated.
  • Doctoral programs in physical therapy and nursing practice launch this fall.

“We must continue to plan for a future, which I hope will be much brighter than it has been the past four years,” Welty said.

To that end, he presented a lengthy list that includes searches for 53 new faculty and deans of the College of Science and Mathematics and Craig School of Business; initial implementation of a comprehensive technology plan; and addressing deferred maintenance needs.

“If the tax initiative fails,” he added, “we will adjust our plans accordingly.”

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