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SUNY budget maintained, but combined services still pursued

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CANTON — The fiscal outlook for the State University of New York improved thanks to no loss of funding in the recently passed state budget, but the system is still urging two Northern New York campuses to consider more combined services.

“I wouldn’t go so far to say we are in good shape,” said David K. Belsky, SUNY spokesman. “We’re trying to do the best we can with the money that we have.”

The 2012-13 budget maintains $10.2 billion in funding for the university system, $1.8 billion from the general fund, $7.25 billion in state and federal support and self-generated funds and $1.1 billion in capital funds, the same as 2011-12 funding levels.

Mr. Belsky said flat funding combined with the rising enrollments and an increasing cost of providing services meant trimming administrative costs in favor of maintaining academic funding.

“Over the next few years we are going to be shifting five percent of our administrative costs over to the academic side of things,” he said. “We are taking our obligations seriously.”

One way that could be accomplished, Mr. Belsky said, is by looking to share more services across campuses.

“Every campus is part of a regional alliance with other campuses, and they’ll be sharing services, whether it is buying paper together or sharing administrative positions,” he said.

That would include eliminating and combining positions between SUNY’s St. Lawrence County campuses at Canton and Potsdam. SUNY Central has recommended the two campuses share a chief financial officer, a move that both institutions have resisted. On March 26, a joint college council meeting passed a resolution opposing the move.

“The Canton and Potsdam campuses are uniquely situated to share administrative functions, and a shared chief financial officer is a part of that process,” Mr. Belsky said. “At most of SUNY’s other four-year campuses, the CFO oversees single units larger than the combined operations of these two campuses.”

The two campuses are working on a report, due July 15, on combined and shared services for the SUNY board of trustees and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, said SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller.

“I am currently working with (SUNY Canton President Joseph L.) Kennedy to draft a report for the SUNY board of trustees that will outline both the existing and the potential shared services between our two campuses, including the shared CFO position, one of the central issues which must be addressed,” he said. “For close to a year, we have been diligently working with SUNY, and with the Canton campus in particular, to ensure collaborative success through the chancellor’s vision of ‘systemness.’”

In the meantime, both campuses continue to search for ways to make the proposed joint chief financial officer work.

“The fact of the matter is that we need to hire someone for the Potsdam campus now,” said Alexandra M. Jacobs, SUNY Potsdam spokeswoman. “Canton is going to need someone serving as their vice president of business affairs beginning next June, so this is still being treated as a joint search at this point.”

SUNY Canton representatives declined to comment Wednesday.

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