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President Thomas Briefs Faculty on
Strategic Planning, Possible Budget Reductions
LEWISTON - With talk of reduced state revenues and budget cuts almost daily fare,
Lewis-Clark State President Dene Kay Thomas met with members of the LCSC Faculty Senate on
Thursday, November 8th. Thomas took the opportunity to discuss the college's strategic
planning process and how it is being applied to meet the immediate and potential budget
cuts being proposed.
A number of factors have played a role in substantially reduced state revenues, which are
translating into new budget constraints for state entities. Global and American economies
that have softened more than predicted, the September 11 terrorist attacks, along with tax
reductions approved earlier by the state legislature are all contributing factors in
significantly reduced state funds.
Administrators have been given projections of 10% below this year's budget for fiscal year
That possibility has sparked questions and lively debate about possible outcomes. Thomas
hopes to address some of those concerns by bringing the planning and decision-making
process to stakeholders, making it as visible and understandable as possible. While the
numbers are "no fun to work with," she's optimistic about where the college is
in its planning process, and how that can be applied to the current budget issues.
Thomas was quick to note that LC started the process of planning for budget cuts,
beginning with the 2% figure and including a 9% scenario, back in October. "This is
an update on a process we'd already begun," she said. "We're actually in a good
spot to be dealing with these issues," she added, noting that the process initiated
earlier is suitable to implementing the 10% projected cut in state revenues.
Chet Herbst, Assistant to the President for Planning, has been working with the president
and a host of LCSC faculty and staff to revitalize and hone the college's strategic plan.
Herbst describes the model for the planning process as "participative."
"All units are participating and developing possible courses of action," he
explained. Thomas added that the participative approach being employed is based on high
levels of interaction and lots of initiative-utilizing the expertise of staff while
preserving decision-making roles.
Both leaders expressed the hope that this approach will help to foster an atmosphere of
cooperation on campus.
Thomas and Herbst hope to make this interactive team approach to strategic planning plain
to all stakeholders. Herbst cited important elements that will contribute to the process
and its outcomes: First, options (courses of action) are developed by the units who will
ultimately have to execute them. Participation by all constituencies-in the form of
focused teams-will allow analysis from multiple perspectives and provide the best possible
information to decision-makers. Thomas also emphasized that in weighing the impacts of
potential courses of action, "We're considering both qualitative and quantitative
criteria and we will be looking at the longer term view."
"Of course, there is much more to the strategic planning process than accommodating
budget cuts," Herbst added. "Because this is an immediate concern, we're
applying the process most intensely here."
Thomas commented that she felt a 10% cut in the college's overall budget was unlikely. She
stated that there are basically two pieces of the funding mix: absorbing some of the
reduction through cuts in programs and raising student fees. Thomas hopes to be somewhere
in the middle of that range, with some of the reductions supported by efficiencies in
programs and some coming from increased fees. "LCSC is already the lowest in the
state when it comes to our fees," she said, noting that colleges and universities
across the country are looking at similarly increased costs.
Thomas said her primary goal will be to rise from the challenge as a competitive,
efficient educational institution that remains focused on the needs of its constituents
and maintains its basic commitment to high quality education for Idahoans. While admitting
the possible budget cuts will make this more difficult, she remains optimistic. "The
people and the tools we're putting to use are the best possible," she said.
"Everyone's going through a similar tough time. Lewis-Clark State is a team player
and we'll be part of the solution."