Closed-door meeting changes Penn State budget proposal Spotlight on Penn State University

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and February notes Pennsylvania State University President Neeri Bendapdi wrote to university leaders last year that they “put forward a deficit budget of $245 million, which the board will not support.”

However, a review of the agendas and meeting minutes of the board as a whole and its finance committee revealed that there was no record of the board receiving a $245 million deficit budget proposal. Vendapdi took over as president of the university in May 2022.

Penn State University wrote in a statement to Spotlight PA: “In Spring 2022, university leaders met with Board leaders to share progress on the budget that will be presented at the July 2022 Board meeting. leaders suggested such a huge deficit would likely not be supported if presented to the board or put to a vote.”

A few months later, the board adopted an operating budget that deficited $149 million from the university’s general fund.

Pennsylvania’s public meeting law requires public institutions, including boards of state-affiliated colleges, to deliberate and take official action only in public meetings. The Pennsylvania State University trustee previously said, Faced with questions about interpreting exceptions Against the law, especially the Executive Committee of the Board Hosting regular private meetings for over 10 years To plan and review agenda items.

Media Counsel for the Pennsylvania News Media Association, Melissa Melewski, said that if a majority of voting members of the Board, or a similar majority of committee members, were present at the Spring 2022 conference, The management board said it may have violated the Sunshine Act. Member of Spotlight PA.

Professor Melewski said that even when a quorum is not met, conversations between trustees and university leadership can still run counter to the spirit of the Sunshine Act, specifically the public’s right to see the institution’s business deliberations. said.

“The majority of agency work, including budget discussions, should be done in public meetings,” she told Spotlight PA.

Board secretary and board secretary Shannon Harvey defended the board’s action in an email to Spotlight Pennsylvania. (Read the full exchange with Pennsylvania State University here. )

“The Sunshine Act does not limit discussion between board leadership, board committee leadership, and university administration,” Harvey wrote. “The board does not take any formal action other than a pre-arranged public board meeting attended by a quorum. We organize our meetings, board meetings and public meetings to comply with the law. I believe it is.”

The Penn State budget deficit — within the Penn State General Fund budget of about $3 billion, which Vendapdi characterizes as “structural” — connected to cut “Strategic recruitment freeze” continues throughout the university, more likely to be fired.

The size of the reported Penn State budget deficit has changed over time. In 2021, the Board adopted a budget that projected a General Fund deficit of $166.4 million for fiscal 2022. In July 2022, just days after the end of the fiscal year, the university projected a general fund deficit of $191 million. , The figure was cited in a report about a university hiring freeze.

The administration had projected a deficit of $127.4 million as of September. But in a report of actual income and expenses for the previous fiscal year filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Education in December, Penn State reported a general funding shortfall of $78.4 million.

Spotlight PA asked Pennsylvania State University to provide context on how the deficit has evolved. At the university’s request, Spotlight PA provided additional information on how the newsroom calculated the numbers.

“With the reorganization of the university’s financial organization under Treasury and Business, Penn State’s financial reporting has been refined throughout the year,” Penn State responded in an emailed statement. “Expectations changed while this process unfolded as additional entries were posted.”

Pennsylvania State University is expected to have a General Fund shortfall of $149 million this year. According to the Pennsylvania Budget Office. The Vendapdi government is introducing a new budget model for the coming academic year to balance the university’s budget by 2025.

At the Board Finance Committee meeting in September 2022, Vendapdi pledged to update the board quarterly on the university’s financial situation. The university told Spotlight PA that these reports are confidential.

In an internal communication sent to trustees before the May board meeting obtained by Spotlight PA, the chair and vice-chair of the board announced that they would be asked during a closed session of the board to expedite public meetings. He asked the councilors to question him.

At a public board meeting on May 5, directors commented on spending on university renovations. Board Chairman Matthew Schuyler responded, “Thank you for joining us in the public session, even though we have not mentioned these things in the last three sessions where we discussed these issues.” .

The suggestion that the trustee’s opinion should not be expressed in public meetings is a “serious red flag,” Melewski said.

“If there is a practice of private discussions before public meetings, that is a big problem,” she said. “It’s a hashout that the public has a right to see.”

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