Oversight of proposed RCM budget gets push back from faculty and staff


Resolutions passed this week by Staff Council and the Senate Budget Policies committee continue to seek more transparency and “robust” involvement from shared governance in the proposed responsibility center management budget model that Pitt is developing.

A responsibility center management (RCM) budget would give schools and other units more decision-making power about how money is spent but also would make those units more responsible for raising money and would require them to pay a “tax” to the central administration for shared services.

Staff Council’s resolution asked that the “stakeholder engagement” period be extended to include presentations to Staff Council and other University committees where students and faculty are members, to engage their feedback. Faculty Assembly passed a similar resolution last month that also asked that the Budget Re-START (Revenue Sharing to Accelerate Responsive Transformation) process be paused until the structures can be put in place to provide full participation of shared governance entities.

Huron Consulting has been working with the University since December. The timeline calls for a formula to be agreed on and infrastructure to be put in place by the end of June to support the new RCM model. The formula would determine the amount of tuition indirects, the Commonwealth appropriation and the tax for the central cost centers each unit would have.

After the formula is set, the new model would be tested as a “shadow budget” for a year with numbers from the 2021-22 fiscal year and would go live for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

At the April Budget Policies committee meeting, Thurman Wingrove, Pitt’s controller, admitted that the 18-month timeline was “aggressive.” Gary Hollibaugh, a member of the Senate Budget Policies committee who also serves on the ReSTART (Revenue Sharing to Accelerate Responsive Transformation) steering committee, said at that meeting, “I want to know how the University is going to develop governance structures to deal with how the budget model might change, … and I don’t think we have enough time in half of May and all of June to really develop this.”

The resolutions passed this week by the Senate Budget committee and Staff Council both asked that as “part of the budget model reform process, and before the implementation of a new budget model, the Planning and Budgeting System (PBS) should be reformed to strengthen shared governance and guide the implementation process.”

Adriana Maguiña-Ugarte, a staff member in the Anthropology department and member of Staff Council and the Senate Budget committee, said the Staff Council resolution “almost exclusively concentrated on the request of shared governance participation. We feel left out, we haven’t had a presentation. … This is such a radical change of budget modeling for University that we feel we need to be part of it, and this stakeholders’ engagement period is about to be finished based on what was presented to us.”

She also noted that staff are not represented on the ReSTART steering committee, although there are two faculty representatives.

Both resolutions also said the University should make use of existing committees, such as the Senate Budget committee, the University Planning and Budget Committee and unit-level planning and budget committees, instead of creating new groups.

A big issue raised by the Senate Budget committee is the lack of oversight by unit-level planning and budgeting committees. These committees are mandated under the Planning and Budgeting System document, but Tyler Bickford, chair of the Senate Budget committee, and others on the committee recently reviewed some of the school-based budget committees and found that many were not very active in the budgeting process.

Bickford also had several proposals for ways to strengthen the unit-based budgeting committees, and stressed that the University needs to “develop procedures to actually make sure that those are implemented rather than just tell the deans to do it, then they may or may not.” Those proposals, which included the unit-based committees meeting regularly with Senate officers and the Senate Budget committee, were tabled by the committee for further study.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said he sees validity in the issues that have been raised. “This is not really a different budget model as it is about kind of a different management model of the University. This is what role do the deans have and the schools and how the faculty provide input for that. Those are shared governance issues, and they’re going to take some adjustments. So I think the fact that they were flagging that and pointing out that there’s a lot to do on the shared governance side is correct.”

But Gallagher said he’s not sure the process is moving too fast. “What you have to do is strike a balance between not moving so fast that you’re senselessly just pushing something through before it’s ready. But you can make the equal mistake on the other side, which is you’re waiting for everything to be perfectly done before you implement, and that turns out not to be true either because these budget models get tweaked and fine-tuned on the fly.”

One of the next steps would be for the Council of Deans to meet, probably in June, to develop the simulated budget for 2021-22 under the new model. Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for Data and Analytics, told the Senate Budget committee that the Planning and Budgeting System document also would need to be updated.

Bickford proposed and the committee agreed that they would meet sometime this summer to review the progress on the RCM model.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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