Questions raised about programs, future of Wardenburg
The Wardenburg Student Health Center will be forced to make drastic budget cuts after their funding requests were largely denied in one of the most controversial budget hearings in recent history.
The UCSU Finance Board met for their final annual budget hearings on their three main cost centers – the UMC, Wardenburg and the CU Rec Center. The board, under the directive of CU’s Legislative Council pruned away at budgets wherever it could to avoid any student fee increase. Wardenburg felt the heat, seeing less than 10 percent of its requested budget approved.
By far the most contentious arguments of the evening centered on Wardenburg’s budget request, which asked for an 18 percent increase to cover rising costs and skyrocketing employee benefits mandated by the state. Wardenburg, which already receives less funding than any other Big 12 health care program, saw more than $600,000 of that request denied.
“It’s going to be tough for Wardenburg to provide the level of care it does for students with this decision. They are going to see a lot of the things they value gone,” said Matt Leroue, a Health Board representative. “Honestly, we are on this board to advocate for students, we are trying to go to (the Finance Board) to say that these are programs they hold in esteem.”
Since Wardenburg is unable to reduce the costs of actual medical care, the cuts will be applied in other areas. Affected programs could include the Community Health Program, the MusculoSkeletal clinic, Wardenburg performance improvement, and the substance abuse program STARS. Health Board officials estimate that amount of contact students have with Wardenburg could decrease nearly 60 percent because of the cuts.
Despite argument from the Health Board, many present at the meeting weren’t satisfied with the small percentage of students positively influenced by the programs and didn’t believe many of the campus-wide effects presented were directly attributable to Wardenburg.
Questions about the usefulness of some Wardenburg costs, especially the substance abuse program, sparked a larger debate about the allocation of all student fees over campus.
“In 2001 this university offered as good of an education and community as it does now without these programs,” Legislative Council President and Finance Board member Joe Martinez said.
This sentiment was opposed by other members who wanted student fees spread to many different groups and centers around campus, citing a benefit to the university community as a whole.
“As a student body, we should be supporting each other,” Finance Board member and junior accounting major Catherine Greguras said.
Along with the approved $27,000 increase for Wardenburg, an unspecified amount of money was set aside for the sexual abuse victim support group COURAGE to continue with full funding.
The UMC also saw total budget cuts amounting to around $3,000, but the majority of the cost center’s needs were supplemented by savings generated from a re-negotiation of the building’s bond. Money from the bond will go toward funding Night Ride and Program Council.
The Rec Center was awarded a budget increase of $49,000 beyond its request, with funding from the Supplemental Operating Reserve (SOR) coming to replace two failing condensation pumps in the aging building.
The budgets will now go before Legislative Council in the upcoming weeks, and still need their approval before they are passed on to the Regents. The process could get even rockier, as many members of Legislative Council present at the meeting were in opposition to the majority of the motions presented.
“We need to find a balance between low student fees and the upkeep of the university. We need to figure out how to keep the university competitive. We don’t want to fall behind the train. We want to stay with it,” Leroue said.