BGSU budget not bleak?

Financial statements and not the budget are what tell the true story of Bowling Green State University’s
fiscal situation, a professor of economics from Wright State University said Thursday at BGSU.
Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum said budgets are planning documents, while the financial statements contain the
actual numbers and provide a more complete picture of what a university is doing with its money.
Fichtenbaum, who is also chief negotiator for the Wright State Chapter of the American Association of
University Professors, was on campus at the invitation of the BGSU Faculty Association. The group is
conducting a card signing drive to seek an election to allow faculty to organize for collective
bargaining at BGSU.
He said BGSU is no worse off financially than any other public university in Ohio and stacks up very
favorably in many categories. He spent about 90 minutes providing suggestions on how to use financial
statements to further the group’s effort.
While BGSU faculty raises have been small or non-existent, Wright State faculty received a 3 percent
increase last year, 5 percent this year and will get another five percent next year. Enrollment at
Wright State is up six percent this year.
He said University of Toledo faculty, also unionized, received a three percent raise last year and got a
three percent raise this year after it was learned that bonuses were being paid to administrators.
Fichtenbaum said the UT group used a "pigs at the trough" approach to get its point across and
also got the university to drop furloughs.
Kent State faculty, also organized, are receiving a 3 percent raise and bonuses of $2,500 to $2,800.
"A union gives you a fighting chance to get a piece of the pie. Without a union you are left with
collective begging," he said. "It’s a matter of priorities. Your university is not any worse
off than any of the others."
Over a period of 2004 through 2008 he said BGSU’s budget underestimated actual tuition revenue and the
university set aside about $3 million for "strategic initiatives." He suggested faculty ask
what the university has gotten for those initiatives "or is it just a slush fund for someone’s pet
projects."
Fichtenbaum said BGSU, like other institutions, saw a drop in the value of its investments in the last
year but he predicted the figures would probably look a lot better by early 2010 because of the rebound
in the stock market.
Citing a formula from Senate Bill 6, he offered a chart the Ohio Board of Regents uses to determine if
universities are in good financial shape. The system uses a rating of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.
BG was rated 3.4 in the latest (2008) and had been as high as 4 on the scale. Only Wright State, Kent
State and Miami rated higher, with BGSU and Ohio State at 3.4. None of the state schools were near the
1.75 level, which can result in an institution being placed on fiscal watch.
Fichtenbaum said BG has a solid A2 bond rating, with Ohio State and Kent State the only state schools
with higher ratings.