“The budget is the conscience of a school”

AerialSIJan2009V2

In my last post, I mentioned that the February meeting of the combined Boards of Trustees and Regents would be an important one. And it was. The two groups met last week and unanimously passed our budget for the 2014–15 academic year. That vote, to me, showed tremendous faith by these leaders in our school, in our direction and in our vision for SI.

To most people, budgets may seem like the nuts and bolts of doing business, but they are much more. At a gathering of Jesuit high school presidents in New Orleans, Rev. José Alberto Mesa, S.J., the education secretary for the Society of Jesus in Rome, said this about budgets: “They are the conscience of their schools.” In other words, we put our money where our mouths and hearts are. We fund the programs we believe to be valuable, and we trim wherever we can to ensure that SI continues to be as affordable as possible.We do this in challenging times and in a challenging place. We are located in one of the most expensive areas in the world to do business and to live. A recent post in sfgate.com cited a study of the annual family incomes needed to buy homes in 25 major U.S. markets. No one would be surprised that the Bay Area ranked topmost on the list, at more than triple that of Chicago’s annual income requirement and more than double that of Denver’s.

Our area is also a highly competitive one. We compete with independent schools, all of whom look to attract the same bright teachers by offering attractive salaries, as well as the same bright students by providing state-of-the-art facilities. All of this drives up the cost of doing business. Luckily, we have a talented group of regents and administrators, women and men who have worked to craft a budget that allows us to be competitive while still holding costs down. My thanks go especially to the members of the Regent Finance Committee, led ably by Regent Vice Chair Joe Allanson ’81 and by VP for Finance and Administration Ken Stupi ’78. They and their team met six times through the fall and winter to review the budget with a fine tooth comb, and both are rightly proud of their results: a modest increase in tuition for next year. On Feb. 27, I will send a letter to parents of freshmen, sophomores and juniors and to parents of applicants announcing the tuition for 2014–2015.

Here are some highlights from the budget. We have allotted $3.4 million for tuition assistance, up from the $3.1 million we are distributing this year. The budget also provides for a fair and just salary increase for both faculty and staff and continues to support curricular and co-curricular programs. It allows for much-needed deferred maintenance on our campus; after 45 years in the Sunset District, our school needs some work. The budget also funds a new Alumni Volunteer Corps, one that will allow SI grads coming out of college to work at SI, live in community, and practice simple living much along the lines of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Likewise, the budget will support our model Adult Spirituality Program and help to grow our immersion program.

All of this, I hope, illustrates the kind of institutional conscience we have, one that lives out the Jesuit mottos of “caring for the whole person,” “offering a preferential option for the poor” and “nurturing a faith that does justice.”

SI is blessed with abundant resources, ones that I will never take for granted. Please know how grateful I am to our alumni, parents and benefactors for the support they have shown SI since its humble beginnings, and I commit myself to continue to scrutinize how we spend our money, how we use our resources and how we contain our costs. I have said no to many worthy projects and will continue to do so to continue to keep SI as affordable as I can.

I will also post the Feb. 27 letter to this blog. Look for it and for an announcement about a slight change in our iPad program. Also, mark you calendar for my second State of the School address on April 15 at the parent meeting sponsored by both the Ignatian Guild and the Fathers’ Club. I will answer questions there about the budget and offer more details about what we are funding.

Thank you for reading this and for your support of SI. It means more to me than I can ever fully express.

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