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Clemson board passes $1.3 billion budget in line with previous year despite pandemic

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Clemson University announced that it will begin its fall semester completely online on Aug. 19. Provided photo

CLEMSON — Despite continuing uncertainty around the spread of the coronavirus, the Clemson University Board of Trustees unanimously passed a $1.3 billion budget Friday for the next fiscal year, about level with the previous year's spending plan. 

With the pandemic projected to cost the university well over $100 million by the end of the school year, Clemson Vice President of Finance Tony Wagner told the board the plan is "conservative but not overly conservative," during the meeting Friday.

While considering factors such as asset depreciation, the university is expected to bring in $4 million less than it lost this school year. Also that cash revenue exceeded what Clemson spent and the school is essentially set to finish the year "in the black," Wagner said. 

It's on track to bring in about $40 million less this fiscal year than it did the previous year as pandemic-related restrictions cut into revenue like sporting event ticket sales and housing fees. With aggressive spending cuts, the school has been able to offset costs and revenue disruptions and is still remains in a good position.

"Clemson will finish in a rather strong financial position relative to our peers," Wagner said.

In the spending plan, $60 million was reallocated to address impacts related to COVID-19 in the coming year and $410 million in previously planned capital projects are now on hold.

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The 2021 fiscal year budget includes a net drop of about $9.5 million in employee compensation and benefits, driven mostly by $17 million cuts in hiring restrictions and budget reductions. Wagener said it is  undetermined if employee furloughs would continue.

The spending plan also anticipates a $51 million drop in sales revenue from sources such as athletic ticket sales, and for state funding to decrease by about $11 million.

But ultimately, the school's financial position at the end of this fiscal year is still set to be roughly comparable to past years, Wagner said.

 In other business during Friday's meeting:

  • The board announced an advisory committee would be responsible for day-to-day management of the Woodland Cemetery, an on-campus burial ground where hundreds of former slaves are believed to be interred in unmarked graves.
  • Clemson epidemiologist Corey Kalbaugh provided an update on the school's response to the pandemic. He said about about 15 percent of the school's quarantine beds are currently in use. Students will likely be tested before they return for the spring semester, but the details on what that will look like are still being hashed out. No one on campus, students or staff, have been hospitalized as a result of the virus at this point.

Follow Conor Hughes on Twitter at @ConorJHughes.

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