Fiscal Year 2021

Dear Faculty & Staff:

At midnight tonight we start our sixth year as a state university, and we can take collective pride in the extraordinary successes of our first five years.  We begin fiscal year 2021 in the most unusual and challenging circumstances yet, something that reminds me of Dickens’ famous words: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My message today focuses on that paradox for MGA, and especially the financial reality we face as we start FY21.  So how are we in “the best of times”?  Certainly, there are some tremendous success stories for me to share with you regarding our financial health on the cusp of this new year, namely:

  • The USG has withdrawn the furlough plan for all its institutions, and our employees will not be asked to take furloughs.
  • The General Assembly and Governor have asked for 10% cuts in budgets, not the original 14% that we planned some weeks back.
  • The USG has awarded MGA additional annual appropriations funds of $500K from its enrollment-formula model in recognition of our enrollment growth over the past four semesters.
  • $11 million in additional project-based state funding, namely:
    • $1.2 million bond-funding request for the Cochran Roberts Memorial Library and Dillard Hall renovations was fully funded
    • $5 million bond-funding request for aviation equipment was fully funded
    • $4.8 million for renovation and expansion of our Dublin facilities and for expansion of our Dublin-based Nursing program was awarded – these bond-funds for our Dublin campus are a unique and enormous result secured outside of the Board of Regents’ recommendations.

In short, MGA secured transformational General Operating bond-funding for all these above needs, thereby elevating our capacity to serve more powerfully the people of middle Georgia in the years ahead. In these accomplishments I must note here the diligent government relations work of Ember Bentley this past year, which substantially helped secure for MGA these unprecedented levels of bond-funded state support. Further, we are very grateful for the support of our elected state and local leaders, the Board of Regents, and our community partners during this challenging time in state government. Now we shall work to fulfill their ongoing confidence in our MGA community for this new fiscal year.

These are indeed reasons for saying we start the year as the “best of times”. However, in reality there are also clouds that darken our skies. In particular, the 10% cut that the state has required from all its agencies means that our general annual appropriations (separate from the bond-funded appropriations outlined above) for FY21 are $3.5 million less than last year, down from nearly $37 million to $33.5 million.

That reality represents a severe financial cut to our annual operating budget for this year. Our EVP Nancy Stroud and the Budget Office have worked wonders in minimizing the impact of cuts and finding savings in recent years, yet we now start this FY21 fiscal year with a projected overall deficit of nearly $1 million because of the required cut to state budgets. In the first quarter we shall identify how we shall eliminate that projected deficit and return the mandatory balanced budget by the end of FY21, this next day next year. I know that our faculty and staff will marshal resources with great prudence, and that Nancy’s leadership and the skills of the Budget Office will get us to where we must be financially. But our commitment to stewardship and cost-cutting starts again tomorrow on day one of a new fiscal year. So, please, know that money will again be tight for the coming year as we overcome this budget deficit and remain agile in responding to the uncertainty of this pandemic.

In all, though, we stand stronger than we have ever been, even while the path ahead is certainly strenuous. We have managed to navigate the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 without layoffs, we have our Return-to-Campus plans now published and ready to enact, we face a pandemic to manage, and we must educate our students while impacted by a tangible reduction of available fiscal resources. But equally, let us also celebrate and be grateful for the confidence that the State of Georgia has shown in our people and our programs, the great achievements of our employees and students who constitute this University, and the diligent stewardship that we will exercise together as we begin this new fiscal year.

Thank you.