Board approves budget for 2013-2014 year

New additions to campus and new technological additions to classrooms played little part in the tuition and salary budget recommended by the Finance Committee that the Board of Trustees approved on Dec. 3 for the 2013-2014 school year, Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin said. The tuition increase, which is not yet public, will be published in early February when students are required to reenroll for school next year, Levin said.

Because of the Business Office’s decision nearly 10 years ago to restrain tuition growth and because constraining factors caused by the economic downturn have begun to relent, the designing of the budget was uneventful, Levin said.

“We were able to propose something to the board that all of us were comfortable with, and it was not a super-long discussion,” Levin said.
Since both the Kutler Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Copses Family Pool were built using donations, they did not influence the budget, Levin said, although maintaining them does add some extra cost. However, factors like chemicals and electricity for the new pool had already been built into this year’s budget.

“We kind of knew we were going to have a new pool,” Levin said. “It’s not a raging surprise.”

Instead, much of the discussion at the Board of Trustees meeting concerned long-term financial issues, which Levin said “aren’t really purely financial, and aren’t a matter of just budget.” While the budget is tactical and concerned with the short-term “immediate how,” it rarely overlaps with the long-term “what” of strategy.

These long-term issues include programs like financial aid, which involves decisions made not just by the Finance Committee but also by the planning committee, the Advancement Office and the Board of Trustees, Levin said.

However, the Board of Trustees and the Business Office mainly discussed how technology will figure in the reinvented traditional education.

“Right now we can say, oh, c’mon, what are you going to do, stay home and watch a whole bunch of videos on Khan Academy?” Levin said.
Although it’s easy to be dismissive of virtual education, Levin said, in his presentation to the board he used the automaker General Motors, technological corporation IBM and photographic company Kodak as examples of companies who didn’t take competition seriously, or never saw it coming, and were peripheralized.

“We have to figure out how to reinvent ourselves so we don’t perish,” Levin said. “And we have to look around at what is the ridiculous alternative that ends up being the tiger that eats us.”

The Business Office rarely puts money into technology to solve the problem, Levin said, with the possible exception of the school’s experiment with faculty iPads. Because of this, new technology rarely poses a budget problem.

The licensing fee for The Hub is about $20,000 a year, which Levin called “a rounding error in the context of our budget.”

“It’s not dollars, it’s mindset,” Levin said. Even though The Hub costs little, its implications for classroom education mean a lot, he said.

“In the financial planning for this school’s future, the budgeting is way less important right now,” Levin said.

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