Q&A - March 18, 2016

This year, the state of Oklahoma has found itself in the midst of a financial budgetary crisis—the likes of which have not been seen in our lifetime and certainly not since the Great Depression. It occurred to me recently that if you take an outline shape of the state of Oklahoma and turned it upside down, it would serve as a fairly accurate line chart of the declining Oklahoma State Budget—with the sharp drop off leading down to the pan handle representing FY 2016. It might be funny, if it were not so true. All joking aside, these are desperate financial times in Oklahoma.

Q: Will the state’s budget problems affect your ability to proceed with the downtown Okmulgee student housing project?

This question is probably on the minds of many people, but let me reassure you that the answer is “no.” The state’s budgetary shortfall will not affect our downtown Okmulgee student housing project because we were never intending to use any state tax dollars on this project. Renovation of the Old Post Office Complex is intended to create additional OSUIT student housing. Funds that we have on hand in our current student housing operation, from student dorm rental proceeds, will be used to pay for this project. These residential proceeds are being reinvested back into residential facilities, just as they were intended.

If I may elaborate, the operational funding and budgeting of a public institution can be somewhat complicated. Many people assume that all revenue flows into one general account, but this is not true. There are typically a series of different budget accounts supplied by various public and private funding sources. Each budget account can have a different set of legal restrictions placed on it, dictating how funds in that particular account can be spent. For instance, accounts that are intended for building repair and maintenance, may not be able to be used for faculty salaries. And an account earmarked for student life activities, paid for by student activity fees, cannot be used to refit a science lab. In short, funds must be used as they were intended.

Q: How has the state budget impacted OSUIT?

When people ask me how things are going out on campus, it is a very difficult question to answer right now. In this fiscal year alone, OSUIT has already received four reductions in our state appropriations, equaling over $1.85 million. With future cuts anticipated both this year and next, there continues to be much uncertainty about where the bottom will be in this state-wide fiscal crisis.

OSUIT is doing as well as can be expected under these extreme conditions. Due to the generosity of our many corporate partners, we are probably faring a little better than most colleges or state agencies. Thus far, we have been able to manage our rapidly declining budget without any major disruption in the training or services that students and employers have come to expect from this institution.