As Director of the University Budget Office, Cathy Mattingly oversees the use of more than $350 million in TU funds each year. She allocates funds, oversees departmental spending, and manages the constant push-pull between the desire for more funding and the need to keep the university within budget. It’s a big job for a small office, but Cathy handles it well, partially because she’s gotten used to it. Cathy has worked at Towson University for more than 30 years.
Cathy started working at Towson in 1978 as an administrative assistant in a department similar to what is now Financial Services. With the support of her supervisor—the late Associate Vice President Ron Garrison—Cathy took classes in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. At the same time, she started taking on more and more responsibility in her office, and after she graduated in 1989, she was promoted to assistant to the AVP. In her current role as Budget Office Director, she’s now responsible for many of the tasks once completed by her former mentor.
“If it wasn’t for Ron I wouldn’t be in my job now,” Cathy said. “I was lucky to have the support of the people that I worked for, and to work with people who really valued education. Ron was one of a kind.”
Cathy has witnessed a lot of change during her time here—and not just in the different positions she’s held. She’s weathered economic downturns like in the early 90’s, conquered the switch from FRS to PeopleSoft, and seen the university grow to more than 21,000 students. Despite the year to year changes, Cathy remains focused on one overarching goal.
“Each fiscal year brings a new experience…no year is the same,” Cathy said. “But we’ve always come within our budget.”
Achieving that goal is quite the feat: each November, the Budget Office begins preparing the internal budget for the following fiscal year, which doesn’t start until July. She and her staff distribute budget information to each of the university’s seven divisions and ask them to prepare budget requests based on the external (legislative) budget at that time. The departments submit these plans to the Budget Office in February, at which time they’re compiled and submitted to the Resource Planning and Allocation Committee (RPAC), who prioritizes the various requests. This prioritized budget list is sent to the university’s president, who makes the final decisions about what gets included in the budget and then sends the information back to Cathy and her team.
Once the Budget Office receives the final budget information from the president, they distribute it internally to each of the divisions, whose internal staff makes independent decisions on how to distribute their allocated funds. Each divisional budget officer creates a budget plan around their target and submits it to the University Budget Office by June—just in time to be reviewed and loaded into PeopleSoft for the fiscal year. Cathy and her team must then ensure that the university stays within its spending authority, which has proved to be a challenge under recent economic conditions.
“The past two years when we’ve had budget cuts we’ve had to hold out 4% of the divisions’ budget but were able to release it later – two percent at a time,” Cathy said. “We can usually find a way to make things work.”
As if the budget process doesn’t already sounds rigorous, imagine having to do it for three different budgets! The aforementioned process is followed for the stateside, self-support, and auxiliary budgets, which are managed separately. These are all just the internal side of the budget—Cathy and her team also work on the external or legislative budget for the university—which is planned out a full year ahead of the internal budget.
“There are times when I’m working in three fiscal years at one time,” Cathy said. “Right now, we’re working to close up the 2011 budget, preparing the 2012 budget internally and working on the 2013 budget externally!”
Though the job can be tough, Cathy says she enjoys the challenges, and is able to overcome them thanks to the support of a great team of colleagues.
“I love the people that I work with,” Cathy said. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have stayed here so long.”
by Michael Machin