Budget Policies Committee approves guidelines for Pitt budgeting units

The Budget Policies Committee approved a set of guidelines on Sept. 21 to be sent out to Pitt’s various budgeting committees.

The guidelines were created following the results of a survey conducted by Pitt administrators. The survey was sent out by controller Thurman Wingrove and his team to various budgeting groups, made up of faculty, staff and students, within Pitt at the school, department and academic division levels and more, said David DeJong, executive vice provost.

The survey is a part of a traditional system that evaluates the work of the Budget Policies Committee, DeJong added.

DeJong described the results as “pretty positive” with an “off the chart” response rate of 46 percent.

“You hope for 30 percent,” DeJong said.

Wesley Rohrer, chair of the Budget Policies Committee, said some of the “probing” questions included in the survey hadn’t been asked before relating to the overall perception of the effectiveness of Pitt’s budgeting processes.

“I have to admit that I was kind of surprised,” Rohrer said. “I had heard some anecdotes and people that complained that it wasn't very transparent, or it wasn’t taken very seriously. The survey did not shed that all.”

Respondents said they were getting enough data to do their jobs effectively and felt that their suggestions were taken into consideration and acted upon, DeJong said. Respondents could choose to be anonymous, but had to include the budgeting group they participated in.

“But of course, we can always do better,” DeJong said. “So, when we went over these results, our office suggested that we could follow up and put out what we're calling guiding principles to address some concerns that we did see and try to help leaders of committees in particular be more impactful in roles and to make the planning process more successful.”

After survey results were collected, an ad-hoc committee was formed over the summer and tasked with creating the guiding principles. A draft was taken to the Council of Deans where the draft was fleshed out more.

The survey will be conducted every three years, but the guidelines will be updated yearly as needs arise.

It’s important to keep in mind that each budgeting unit has its own unique structure, DeJong said, and the guidelines should be flexible.

After the committee chose to pass the set of guidelines for distribution, Rohrer said the survey was important.

“I want to belabor the point that this survey — as both a source of data and also a sort of a symbol of our providing overview — was a real breakthrough,” Rohrer said. “And I really want to commend David for his oversight of this and Thurmond and his staff because they put a tremendous amount of effort into this.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


Guiding Principles for Planning and Budget Committees
September 12, 2018

  • Committee composition & meeting frequency
    • Faculty, students, staff
    • A proportion of the positions should be elected with staggered terms
    • Committee should meet at least once per term
  • At the initial meeting of the Planning and Budget Committee
    • Provide results of the survey of the Planning and Budget Committee (an additional report of the School’s responses will be made available only to the Dean)
    • Provide a charge to the committee
      • Leadership to set meeting expectations with respect to commitment/frequency of meetings (minimum of one meeting per term)
      • Define area(s) of focus for the committee – budget, program review, strategic planning, other
    • Provide context that the Planning and Budget Committee is part of the University’s shared governance process
    • Provide prior year’s recommendations from the Planning and Budget Committee as well as the actions taken by the unit’s administration to address the recommendations
    • Share any feedback that the unit received from the Provost’s/Chancellor’s office regarding the prior year’s recommendations and actions.
  • Provide the committee the opportunity to ask questions and/or provide recommendations
  • Provide necessary data to the committee
  • Minutes of record are made, retained, and posted for the faculty, students, and staff of the unit to review.
  • Follow-up with the committee with respect to the acceptances or implementation of recommendations
  • At the end of the year, each unit should conduct a survey to evaluate what worked and what did not work.