WSU announces budget cuts to deal with $30M deficit

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SPOKANE — Washington State University is announcing big budget cuts to reduce an estimated $30 million annual deficit.

School President Kirk Schulz announced the cuts in an online statement Monday evening.

Each department at all five of WSU’s campuses has been instructed to reduce spending by 2.5 percent in fiscal 2018, which Schulz hopes shaves $10 million from the deficit each year until the books balance in three years.

Schulz said jobs in many departments are being eliminated, although he did not specify how many.

The Performing Arts program will be eliminated at the end of this performance season, he said.

“These decisions are painful,” Schulz said. “They will disrupt lives, and the consequences of eliminating and reducing positions will ripple throughout our community.”

WSU spokesman Phil Weiler said the Pullman-based university should break even in three years if it sticks to the plan of spending $10 million less each year. He stressed that more changes are expected.

The $30 million deficit includes about an $8.5 million shortfall in the athletics department, Weiler said. That is down from a $13 million athletic deficit a year ago.

About 85 percent of the school’s operating budget goes to salaries and benefits, so Schulz said staff reductions are “inevitable.”

Last month, WSU’s chief budget officer, Joan King, told the Board of Regents that the school had spent about 56 percent of its reserves since 2013.

Schulz said some jobs that were intended to be temporary have become permanent as departments used reserve funds to retain them. Some of those temporary jobs were in the Office of Multicultural Student Services to help support an increasingly diverse student body, Schulz said.

Other departments facing staff reductions include student affairs and finance and administration.

The Performing Arts program, which brings performances to campus, does not receive state or tuition funding and is not self-supporting, Schulz said.

While the program contributes to the community’s cultural richness, Schulz said “ticket sales, grants and gifts are not enough to keep it financially viable.”

Schulz has focused on reducing the university’s deficit since he became president in 2016.