News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 11, 2009

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College announces budget measures

School president cuts own salary, asks for Annual Woods Fund donations

By Sue Loughlin

ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS — The downturn in the economy is taking a toll at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, where donations to its Annual Fund are down 40 percent, or about $250,000, over the same time last year, college President David Behrs said in a letter to faculty and staff.

The Annual Fund helps support the operating budget.

Faced with a projected operating deficit, the college is taking the following measures:

• Behrs and his cabinet officers are taking a 5 percent pay cut from Feb. 1 through June 30. That amounts to one day without pay in a four-week month.

Behrs said he and other administrators also have cut back on some of their conference travel.

• The college will not announce employee salary increases “until we have a reliable picture of our expected revenues for the 2009-10 academic year. That may not be until the spring or even the summer,” Behrs wrote.

n While the college does not presently contemplate eliminating any positions, it will scrutinize very closely proposed new hires or increases in hours.

• Behrs is asking all faculty and staff to contribute to the Annual Woods Fund with the goal of 100 percent participation. “Even if you can only give one dollar, that one dollar could have a significant impact on our fundraising efforts,” Behrs stated.

The Annual Fund supports the operating budget with funding for student scholarships, facilities, faculty and staff development, technology, athletics and other areas. “It helps us operate the college at a high level,” Behrs said in a telephone interview.

Strong participation from the college community in donating to the Annual Fund helps when approaching foundations, corporations and others for financial support, Behrs stated.

Last week, Behrs and his Cabinet conducted a town meeting with faculty and staff to discuss the current economic climate, how it is affecting the college, steps the Woods is taking to weather the storm and ways employees can help strengthen the institution.

As of December, Annual Fund giving was down 40 percent from the previous year. In the last fiscal year, the college had raised $1.1 million through the annual fund.

The college’s 2008-09 operating budget is about $14 million, and the annual fund is one source of revenue.

Last fall, the college also responded to the growing economic downturn by cutting budgets as much as 6 to 7 percent in some areas, Behrs said.

Despite the need to cut spending, the college has two priorities, Behrs said — preserving jobs and providing the greatest possible financial aid to students.

There also is a major push at the college to try and recoup those Annual Fund losses, Behrs said.

“From crisis springs opportunity,” he said. “This is a chance to get the campus rallied behind the Annual Fund.”

He is appealing to all employees to give and believes the campus community is stepping up to the challenge, he said.

The college also plans to go back to its constituency, including alumni, trustees and friends of the college, and ask them to get behind the Annual Fund, Behrs said.

He’s hoping the college can get back up to last year’s total of $1.1 million in donations. “I believe we’ll hit close to target,” he said.

Behrs also noted that the value of the college’s endowment has plummeted because of the market downturn — from about $14 million to about $10.5 million. “The Woods is impacted like everyone else in the current economic downturn,” he said.

During the college’s 168-year history, it has weathered its share of financial turmoil, the president said. “We’ve always come through it.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or