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UNT budgets for surplus funds in ’15

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer
By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer

DALLAS — University of North Texas officials project that the school will have a $12 million surplus in fiscal year 2015, the first surplus at the university in recent years.

Preliminary budget summaries for UNT, the UNT System and other campuses were presented to the Board of Regents on Monday, before the finalized budgets are brought back to the board for approval next month.

They are the first budgets created since officials learned about financial mismanagement at UNT and the system, which included UNT misusing $83.5 million of state funds over 10 years and reporting in the budget that UNT had $23 million it really did not have.

The errors have led to a financial overhaul, and the new budgets are more conservative and reliable than in previous years, said Janet Waldron, vice chancellor for finance.

UNT’s proposed operating budget is $533.7 million, with an additional $12.1 million in income. About $8 million of the surplus is from a new student fee to finance reconstruction of the student union. The fee kicks in this fall and will be used to repay construction debt. The university budgeted to put $5 million into reserves.

Expenses last year were $542.1 million at the Denton school. Cuts this year include 2 percent to academic units and 3 percent to administrative units, UNT President Neal Smatresk said. While the exact cuts are still being reviewed, the methodology approaching the cuts has been to review each department’s budget and adjust the amount of money each unit receives based on its use.

“We made allocations that funded units that have a lot of growth, and just practically speaking, took some money away from the units that didn’t have much growth,” he said.

For example, enrollment at the College of Education is down, so the college probably will have cuts. However, the College of Engineering has grown and most likely will have a larger budget this year.

The new budget also accounts for recurring expenses that weren’t previously included, Smatresk said. For example, the research budget has $2 million more in expenditures budgeted for 2015 because startup funds were allocated every year but were not put in the official scroll.

“A lot of what we’ve been doing these past few months is making sure there’s no surprises, and the things we spend regularly on are in the budget and accounted for,” Smatresk said. “We’ve been fixing little ad hoc pieces, and now we have a budget that is real.”

This will be the first time since 2012 that the university doesn’t have to supplement the budget with money from reserves, according to the budget summary. UNT drew down $10 million in reserves in 2013 and $2.8 million in 2014, documents show. Those figures were not included in budget presentations under former leadership.

The new reports show that UNT had a $13.7 million deficit in 2012, even though it didn’t draw down reserves. In 2013, revenues were $5 million short of budgeted expenses, and the university expects to break even this current fiscal year.

At the system level, the 2015 budget allocates $988,480 to help pay for consulting firm Deloitte and Touche’s contract that was activated earlier this year. The UNT System’s proposed budget, which includes central services, shared services for all campuses, and system administration, is $64.6 million, with an estimated $1.9 million surplus.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.