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State budget main topic at campus meeting

  • Campus forum
    Campus forum  Rector Henry C. Wolf and President Taylor Reveley spoke with a crowd of about 250 during a campus forum Wednesday.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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It didn't take but a few days for the euphoria of a stunning athletic victory to be replaced by the reality of Virginia's budget woes and its impact on William & Mary.

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley and a sizeable number of William & Mary supporters were in Charlottesville Saturday night to witness the Tribe's historic 26-14 upset of in-state rival the University of Virginia. On Wednesday, Reveley, Rector Henry C. Wolf and a smaller crowd of about 250 engaged in a serious conversation of the state's latest cuts in support of the College.

"A great Saturday," Reveley told the audience, "Not so on Tuesday."

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Tuesday cuts across state agencies necessary to address a projected $1.35 billion shortfall in the Commonwealth's budget. At W&M, the reductions equal 15 percent of state support for operations, or $6.1 million.

While Wednesday's campus conversation in the Sadler Center was scheduled in advance of Kaine's announcement, and afforded attendees the opportunity to talk about any issue, the effect of the Commonwealth's financial woes overwhelmed the conversation.

At this point, both Reveley and Wolf said, it's too early to know the specific actions William & Mary will take to deal with the latest cuts but they emphasized the importance of sustaining the College's core academic mission.

"We'll do everything we can to continue maintain the quality of instruction at William & Mary," Wolf said.

The Board of Visitors, the president, and other members of the administration will be working in the coming days and weeks to determine how best to balance this fiscal year's budget in the wake of the reduction in state support. William & Mary will be able to mitigate some of this most recent loss by shifting $2.7 million in stimulus funds from fiscal year 2011 to the current year. However, Reveley added, that's not part of the long-term solution.

"The more (stimulus money) we use this year," he said, "the less we have to use next year."

Looking to the future, Wolf agreed with Reveley that the College needs to explore a new financial model that depends less on state dollars and allows for more flexibility in W&M raising its own revenue.

Since 2008, the state has reduced funding for the College by $16.6 million, or 32 percent of its operational support. In 1980, the Commonwealth provided 43 percent of William & Mary's operational budget. Following the most recent round of cuts, that percentage is projected to drop to 13.7 percent for the current fiscal year.

"We've got to be allowed by the state to earn more money.  We've also got to do a better job of attracting gifts and grants," Reveley said following the forum. "We have over 85,000 alumni who received splendid William & Mary educations and have a great loyalty to the university.

"We can do it. Last year, W&M raised more money than ever in the 317-year history of this institution."

Despite the recent budget news, Reveley espoused confidence that the future is bright for the nation's second-oldest college.

"William & Mary will build a more secure financial foundation than we have had since the mid-1770s."