WSU closes fiscal year 18 with challenges ahead


WSU Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration building. Photograph: Soham Parikh/The Guardian

On Tuesday morning, Walt Branson, Wright State’s vice president finance and operations and chief business officer, sent out a communication email to the campus community to update the current financial situation.

“First the good news. We finished FY18 with a $10 million operating surplus. This is the first operating surplus that Wright State has shown since 2011,” Branson said. “To generate that surplus we overcame many financial challenges during the year and cut spending by over $53 million from the previous year. For the first time in recent history no units over spent their budget.”

The email also addressed reports by local media of WSU current finance situation taking more than two decades to correct the mass over spending from the last few years.

“I want to address a concern I have heard about a recent headline that stated it will take Wright State 20 years to recover from the budget crisis. While it is true that it may take us 20 years to restore reserves to what they were six years ago, fiscally sustainability will come much sooner as we build revenue and regularly realize an operating surplus,” Branson stated in the email.

The university released their fact finding post hearing brief report on the Board of Trustees page on its website. The 170 page document was written in the spring of last year prior to President Cheryl Schrader announcing at a board meeting that the school would avoid fiscal watch.

The report states; “the fact that the University is still at serious risk of entering fiscal watch status only reinforces the severity of the financial crisis. Regardless of whether the University is able to avoid fiscal watch status through one-time austerity measures, it will take many years for WSU to recover and restore its long-term financial health.”

As Wright State continues to make corrections to its reserves, the strategic planning process will be voted on by the Board of Trustees at its public meeting this Friday.

“Media outlets quoted a report last week that was written in the May and June timeframe, before we closed out FY18 and confirmed a $10 million surplus,” said Branson. “The State of Ohio will not announce our official FY18 Senate Bill 6 score until the spring of 2019. However, based on our preliminary calculations we believe the university’s score will be 2.20, well above the 1.75 cutoff associated with fiscal watch. Due to the cutbacks and sacrifices that everyone has made we can say with much certainty that we have avoided fiscal watch.”

Branson wrote that he believes that this coming fiscal year will be more difficult.

“I have often said that I think this year in many ways will be tougher than fiscal year 2018. Many units are operating with budgets that are not adequate to sustain them in the longer term. The flexible budgets in almost every area have been eliminated. In my opinion we have stopped the financial free-fall of previous years, a significant feat in and of itself. However, we have not yet re-established a solid financial foundation. It will likely take several years before we fully accomplish that,” Branson said.

Branson ended the email by expressing his appreciation for everyone during the current financial situation. “Your actions have made our amazing progress possible. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we make our way through these improving though challenging times,” he said.