North Texas Daily

UNT extends chancellor amid ongoing financial concerns

UNT extends chancellor amid ongoing financial concerns

August 24
19:07 2014

Joshua Knopp / News Editor

In a two-day meeting at the end of last week, the Board of Regents extended system chancellor Lee Jackson through 2017 and passed the budget for fiscal year 2015, even though they weren’t quite sure how the budget for fiscal year 2014 would end up. The 2014 fiscal year will end Aug. 31.

The board eventually tabled a movement to amend the 2014 budget and only passed the 2015 budget because this was the board’s last meeting before that fiscal year starts. The board’s current uncertainty is fallout from April and June revelations that the school could have as much as $23 million less in reserve than they thought and could owe $83 million back to the state.

UNT auditors and financial firm Deloitte & Touche are currently working to confirm the contents of the 700 accounts the $23 million gap represents, but they are behind schedule. Jackson said the reconciliation process can still meet its target of beginning to restate their financial position in October.

Every fiscal year starts with a budget document and ends with an actual document. Budget is a spending plan for the year, and an actual is the results of that spending plan taking into account variances that can occur over the course of a year. While normally this is the time to publish the actual document for 2014, because the school had overstated its position by so much, administration decided to amend the budget to better reflect their starting position.

Jackson said his financial cabinet wanted to change the budget because anyone referring to it would see a massive, confusing gap between it and the actual, but the board didn’t want to pass it yet because the budgetary corrections weren’t complete.

“Because we’ve disclosed several different errors that affected several different assumptions, this budget didn’t serve as a very good reference,” Jackson said. “They didn’t want to go back and vote to change two, three, four things if we would just need to go back and change more.”

The 2015 budget faced similar scrutiny. There are some expenditures within the budget that are notably different than what they will be in the actual, and the board was critical of the apparent inconsistency.

“Why would we not budget those numbers in the right place to begin with?” chairman Brint Ryan said. “We’re burning up a lot of the regents’ time here worrying about variances that, frankly, shouldn’t be in the budget.”

Vice president of finance and administration Bob Brown said his office would clarify the problems before the board’s next meeting.

Vice chancellor of finance Janet Waldron said the confusion was at least partially borne of the finance office juggling too many tasks. Waldron’s office is working with auditors while also trying to amend the 2014 budget and write the 2015 budget based on the accounts that are still being audited. Waldron said she and Brown simply didn’t have time to align the new budget’s expenditures.

Waldron said this process would strengthen the university’s financial policies going forward.

UNT president Neal Smatresk said the problem isn’t as big as it seems.

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