The college’s deficit has been reduced by $295,000, according to Vice President for Finance Tom Axtell. This figure was approved at the most recent quarterly Board of Trustees meeting.
The college now faces a deficit of $665,000, but Axtell is optimistic that the deficit will be eliminated by the end of the year, even despite “challenges” like recently broken pipes.
If the gap is not closed by the end of the year, it’s possible that Knox will dip into unrestricted bequests, a fund in the endowment comprised of money that deceased Knox alums have left to the college. According to Axtell, this year’s unrestricted bequests are enough to balance the budget.
“That’s why when I say we’ll balance the budget one way or another — we’ll just do it in a graceful way or in an ungraceful way. The graceful way is working on that $665,000 and getting it down to zero without relying on unrestricted bequests. The ungraceful way is that if we have to use some of the unrestricted bequests to balance the budget.”
One way or another, he said, Knox will get through by the end of the year.
“I think we’re in the best position I’ve seen in a long time to address the long-term structural issues facing the college,” Axtell told TKS. His goal is to eliminate a deficit position Knox has faced for decades without “jeopardizing the integrity of the educational program.”
The school is in a better position than it has been in previous years and has been lowering the deficit each year with more support from the endowment. The school may also rely included salary freezes and reduction of retirement contributions to continue to balance the budget, but nothing will be done drastically or prematurely.
“The goal is to stay flexible and reallocate resources, do everything we can to reduce expenses but not do it prematurely. You don’t want to do anything drastic,” Axtell said.
The Board also reviewed the status report for the current year budget, evaluated a preliminary projection for next year’s budget and authorized an endowment spending limit for the next year.
The budget next year will essentially be contingent upon the tuition revenue, which could depend on growing the college, increasing the gross charge and changing the amount of financial aid given.
“You put those three together, that determines how much net tuition you have,” Axtell said.
Still, the college remains committed to financial aid and has projected increases in financial aid expenses in the budget and acknowledges a competitive market in terms of gross price. So, Axtell said, increasing the number of students “would have the most profound effect” on the college’s revenue.