Business office finishes budget, awaits board of trustees approval


By Rebecca Nussbaum

 The Business Office is finishing the preliminary 2011-2012 budget that will be approved by the Board of Trustees at its Dec. 6 meeting, Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin said. The most substantial components of the budget are tuition and salaries. The decisions need to be set early in the year because faculty members are informed of salary raises during spring break, and students begin to re-enroll and are admitted in February and March, Levin said.

 ”We can’t tell [students] ‘Look, we’ll give you the price later. Trust us,’” Levin said. “We have to have our price set.”

The Business Office will present its suggestions to the 16 members of the Finance Committee, and it will be up for approval the same afternoon by the full Board of Trustees, Levin said. President Thomas C. Hudnut and Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts will divide the salary budget among faculty and staff members.

While the California public school system pays teachers based on seniority, Levin said that Huybrechts bases salaries on teachers’ performances.

 ”You’ve got some teachers who are very good and some who are ‘wow,’” he said. “‘Wow’ should get paid more.”

Hudnut and Huybrechts can divide the money as they see fit as long as they stay within the budget approved by the Board of Trustees.

In addition to these two practical decisions, the Business Office is strategically planning the financial future of the school to prevent tuition from increasing at the rate that it has in the past, he said.

“What is going on is we’re trying to take stock strategically probably on a greater level than we normally do,” he said.

The most recent major change in the school’s financial plan was in 2003. Before that, tuition had increased at inflation plus four percent and that year the Business Office began to aim for inflation plus two percent, he said.

Since 2003, the endowment has increased and there is more efficiency in the billing and enrollment systems, contributing to a lower tuition.

Levin estimates that without these changes, this year’s tuition would be $32,600 instead of $29,200.

The office is evaluating the productivity and efficiency of the school’s finances to see if there are any “supertanker issues,” or places where the school needs to totally change its financial plan.

However, Levin stressed that any new policies will be slowly and smoothly implemented.

“Everything at Harvard-Westlake is steady as she goes. It’s still a long ways away,” he said. “Our tuition is still rising faster than inflation. You know, what’s next? But that’s sort of where we are right now.” 

The budget will be fine-tuned in the spring when departments can ask for alterations to their budget if they plan on spending more or less than what the Board of Trustees allotted to them.