The Governing Board of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) approved a $ 1,262 million consolidated budget for the university system that contemplates a reduction in income due to the impact of the pandemic coronavirus and modifies how money is allocated to each of the sites.
The UPR's consolidated budget for the next fiscal year contains a reduction of $ 70.9 million. However, the projections do not include the funds that the academic institution of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could receive to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, said the president of the UPR, Jorge Haddock Acevedo .
“This budget is another gigantic step in the transformation of the UPR towards the autonomy of the units and precincts. Beyond budgetary autonomy, this opens the doors to the academic and administrative autonomy of the units. We are excited and very optimistic about the future of the UPR, "said the university president.
The Governing Board approved the budget on Friday.
But the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF) reported in a letter sent yesterday that the financial document does not comply with the certified fiscal plan for the university system . The tax agency announced that if the university administration does not make the necessary changes to reduce payroll, reduce employee benefits and eliminate exemptions in tuition costs, among others, it will approve its own budget before the end of the month.
Haddock Acevedo indicated that they work to attend to the signals of the JSF, but stressed that there are some points that "are not negotiable." Issues such as the dismissal of university employees and the elimination of tuition exemptions have been the subject of constant clashes between the JSF and the UPR for the last years.
“We are committed to complying and reaching an agreement where all of these are met requests and demands, but there are some areas in which we are firm. There are no layoffs, there is no closure of venues and there are other types of requests that have been made that we are firm that we are going to maintain, "said Haddock Acevedo.
As established in the Certified Fiscal Plan, the budget does not contain increases in tuition costs for university students in the next academic year. Haddock Acevedo stressed that a new cost scale will not be imposed for UPR laboratory schools in fiscal year 2021, but he did not venture to anticipate whether it will be effective in the following fiscal year.
The consolidated budget for fiscal year 2021 for the UPR contains revenues of $ 609 million from the central government, as well as $ 305.6 million in federal funds. Revenue from student enrollment is projected at $ 178.6 million and other sources of income would come together to bring $ 168.7 million to the academic institution.
Haddock Acevedo highlighted that the institution's consolidated budget has remained stable in the last five years Because the university's own income has been increased while the contributions of the central government have been reduced. As an example, the university leader noted that federal funds have increased from $ 120 million to $ 306 million in five years, while tuition revenue has risen from $ 50 million to $ 180 million.
In keeping with the certified fiscal plan Last week, the UPR employer contribution to the Employees Retirement System will amount to $ 160 million, said the president.
Likewise, the university system expects to soon receive an additional allocation of about $ 55 million promised by Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to mitigate the losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, stressed the Director of Finance of the Central Administration, Antonio Tejera Rocafort.
Haddock Acevedo explained that the budget was made following "the principles" of a zero-based budget, for which was based on the real needs of all the components of the system and not on a projection based on the budgets for years p
One of the main differences is that the precinct budgets were calculated based on their payroll expenses, the amount of their own income they generate, and the enrollment income at the graduate level in the case of the three venues with master's and doctorate programs. Added to this was a formula created to distribute the enrollment income at the undergraduate level according to the number of students in each unit who are within the established period to complete their academic programs, detailed Haddock Acevedo.
"The The new year's budget has been made based on a model that uses principles of the zero-based budget methodology aimed at encouraging an increase in the number of students, income generation, savings and efficiency, in general. The new budget model provides units with greater responsibility for the development and control of their budget at the individual level, since their income is based on specific activities and metrics, "said Tejera Rocafort.
Under this new model, the Medical Sciences, Arecibo and Ponce venues will see increases in their budgets for the next fiscal year of $ 6 million, $ 1.4 million and $ 327,417 respectively. The increase for Medical Sciences is largely because you will receive all of your graduate level tuition earnings, representing the majority of your students.
“We are committed to our employees, so payroll comes first It is protected and covered, along with benefits like health plan and retirement. The venues then have a discretionary income that they can work for other types of expenses, "said the president.
However, Haddock Acevedo stressed that others will have restricted uses. For example, the laboratory or technology fees paid by students will go directly to their facilities and must be invested exclusively in those laboratory or technology courses.
The university leader rejected that this budget model harms the facilities with fewer students or those who serve as entry points for college students who then move to larger units.
“I think it's a fair model, it's transparent, it's simple. As I said, it encourages schools to bring income, to increase their enrollment, the number of students, incentive to bring savings, "said Haddock Acevedo. “I think that all kinds of institutions have to transform, the venues now have that incentive to transform and economize and bring in income. So this is … I think we can see it as one of the biggest moves towards the autonomy of the campuses, towards the autonomy that the university community so much asks of us, "he added.