Despite warnings from President Laurie Nichols and her staff last June the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted to transfer close to $140 million in cash into reserve accounts. The cash was pulled from individual campus units like colleges and departments.
The transfer coincided with a university-wide transition to a new financial management system, but Nichols asked that the trustees delay action saying that faculty and staff in many cases had purposefully saved funds to create the cash flow needed to support innovation, and to cover unforeseen costs like expensive repairs to lab equipment.
At the time, the trustees on the budget committee admitted that while things might go wrong, it was best to move forward and deal with mistakes as they popped up. And that’s exactly what the board has had to do.
Donal O’Toole is a professor of veterinary sciences and the newly elected chair of the Faculty Senate. “Because of the financial problems of the university the trustees decided they needed to add to their fiscal reserves,” said O’Toole. “And what they did was, they swept departmental and unit accounts. The problem is some of that money is needed to operate the university.”
O’Toole said this has impacted the lab he runs that’s on call to help determine if people in Wyoming have been exposed to rabies.
“We lost our operating budget. We need money so that citizens in Wyoming don’t die of rabies.”
O’Toole said in total his department is short almost $800,000 which has yet to be restored, and he said it’s a cumbersome process to get it back.
Trustee John McKinley who chairs the budget committee explained that units can make a request to the administration that funds be returned. The administration then makes a presentation to the budget committee who then has to make a recommendation to the entire board.
McKinley said to date all requests have received a positive recommendation, but in some cases, the amount returned to the departments differs from the amount requested.
In November the board restored over half a million dollars to the student government. And this week they restored $5,700 to the Staff Senate, as well as over $100,000 to the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute.
Correction: We previously reported that the Staff Senate had over $500,000 returned to it, instead of the $5,700 it actually got. We regret the error.