Carlow University says budget deficit one-time problem

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Budgeting errors made by Carlow University during the previous fiscal year left the campus facing an estimated $700,000 deficit that the school's president says has been addressed through various spending cuts, including the layoff of 10 campus employees.

Carlow President Mary Hines said in an interview Tuesday that the school's finances are sound, and she described the problem as a one-time situation.

"We're a human institution. People do the best they can to plan and to execute, and sometimes things get overlooked," she said. "Some mistakes were made ... and we corrected them, and we're moving forward."

Word of the budget shortfall surfaced at roughly the time a forensic investigation was completed regarding allegations made against a former financial employee of the university. Ms. Hines said Tuesday that the matter was unrelated to the budget shortfall, and she reiterated her statement released last week after a meeting with campus employees that the forensic investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Regarding the school's finances, Ms. Hines said Carlow discovered near the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year that ran through June 30 that its budget did not fully anticipate expenses in several areas, including the amount of billings from adjunct faculty for teaching additional course sections and for performing administrative tasks.

Also, she said, part of the food services contract involving a residence hall eatery named Franny's Cafe in Frances Warde Hall was not fully funded. "The expenses exceeded what we had allocated to it," she said.

In addition, expenses including tuition, room and board provided to resident assistants in return for their work in campus residence halls had not been properly categorized, she said.

Ms. Hines declined to say where within the university's administration the errors originated. "I'm not going to point fingers," she said.

Carlow worked to close the shortfall and avoid its reoccurrence this fiscal year, first by making non-personnel cuts, then by the layoffs, she said.

Carlow's budget is approximately $39 million, Ms. Hines said. The university has 2,324 students.

In a statement to Carlow's employees released last week, Ms. Hines likened the budget situation to financial challenges that other institutions have faced "in a changed economic environment." Her statement, without elaborating, said certain functions were being consolidated or eliminated.

Regarding the forensic investigation, Ms. Hines declined in her statement to employees to elaborate on the report, saying it was done at the direction of outside legal counsel and involved a personnel matter.

education - neigh_city

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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