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Reducing College Expenses

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I sincerely hope this email finds you and your loved ones doing well. I am writing today with some guidance for the balance of this fiscal year regarding a variety of fiscal-related topics during this period of modified operations and working remotely.

Budget Adjustments

Given the ever-evolving crisis, until further notice all spending should be kept to a minimum. We have taken extraordinary and unbudgeted measures in recent weeks to address challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, we have provided credits to students for unused room and board, including for aided students who’ve paid no fees to the College; invested in additional technology to support remote learning; assisted with travel costs to move students away from campus; and provided payments to our work-aided students to make up for time that they should have worked during the term. At the same time, we have committed to compensating our faculty and staff through the semester, including those for whom work might not be available due to our modified operations. 

Because of these necessary actions, the College is facing a projected budget shortfall for the year. In order to minimize this deficit, please refrain from any nonessential purchases for the remainder of this fiscal year. In addition to the College’s current prohibition on College-related travel, examples of spending that should be reduced include professional development, supplies, outside catering, and discretionary equipment purchases. As has been the case for the past several years, carryforwards from the current year’s unused operating budget into next fiscal year will not be permitted. Remaining funds in departmental budgets will be used to offset the overall College shortfall. If you have a question on whether a purchase is essential, please ask for clarification from Assistant Vice President for Finance Alice Turbiville or the President’s Staff member who oversees your area. 

Travel/Meetings

With global advisories and Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions against travel in place, the College is prohibiting travel for the remainder of the fiscal year. We ask faculty and staff to cancel all work-related travel through June 30 and seek refunds wherever possible. Until restrictions are lifted by the government and the College, please refrain from making travel arrangements for College business, including for the 2020–21 fiscal year. The Dean’s Office can make exceptions for emergency student travel. 

Remote Work Expenses

Office-supply purchases are permitted and can be ordered via the e-Market portal from Office Basics or W.B. Mason. These vendors are making all deliveries to the College post office, and arrangements can be made to pick up your orders by calling 610-328-8368. Approved expenses include necessary office supplies only. Technology equipment (monitors, printers, and other peripherals) or desks, chairs, or other home office furnishings are not approved expenditures during this period of remote work. If you have any questions on permitted business expenses, please contact Chris Kane or Pat Hearty for clarification.

Remote Instructional Equipment

Faculty with critical instructional needs that require additional home office equipment to facilitate their remote teaching should first be in touch with members of Information Technology Services (specifically members of the Academic Technology group or the Help Desk via support@swarthmore.edu) to inquire about borrowing equipment. If needed equipment is unavailable, faculty are permitted to make purchases against their departmental budgets only after receiving approval from their department or program chair. In addition, staff members who do not already have updated essential equipment at home should discuss their needs with their supervisors. 

PCard Reminders

During our current modified operations, most cardholders will not have a need for PCard use; however, for those cardholders (and their approvers) with essential and/or allowable needs, please keep in mind the following for March transactions, including credits/refunds:

  • The cardholder deadline for reconciliation of all transactions posted between March 1 and March 31 was April 7. As such, all reconciliations (including budget code allocations, business purpose description, and an uploaded copy of the detailed receipt) should be completed at this time.
  • April 14 is the approver deadline for all transactions posted between March 1 and March 31.

Additionally, with fewer transactions expected until our return to normal operations, cardholders should get into the habit of reconciling transactions as they post to Works rather than waiting until month’s end to reconcile all transactions. This is the best practice for PCard usage and allows for a timely upload to Banner of all transactions for the College.

Outside Contractors and Vendors on Campus

Outside contractors and vendors continue to have a limited presence on campus. Food-service deliveries continue for remaining students residing on campus and for essential employees. Landscaping contractors have an exemption under Pennsylvania’s guidelines, and they will be present on campus to maintain the safety and beauty of campus grounds. Trash removal and recycling continue on a regular basis, among other vital services. 

However, due to COVID-19’s disruption of campus life, there are several activities that have been or will be discontinued for the near future. They include outside catering, delivery of nonessential supplies, and many engagements with consultants or vendors for professional services. Please work with your supervisor or the President’s Staff member in your area to determine whether a service is advisable and allowable at this time.

COVID-19 Activity Code

If you incur expenses that are directly attributable to the College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please include the Activity Code COVID in addition to the usual Fund-Orgn-Acct-Prog (FOAP) budget coding. Examples of such expenses include emergency travel costs for students, technological equipment required to support remote learning, and personal protective equipment for employees working on campus. This coding will help us to track the expenses and, where possible, seek reimbursement from federal or state sources. If you have questions about which expenses should be coded in this way, please contact Alice Turbiville.

Moving Forward

This is a remarkable time of transition for all of us at Swarthmore, and I appreciate the flexibility and resilience that you have demonstrated as we navigate through these times. Thank you for all that you do to support our community. I hope these Business Office guidelines are helpful to you as we work through this pandemic. We will be in touch about the impact of COVID-19 on future operations and budgets as the situation unfolds over the next several months.

Best,
Greg Brown
Vice President for Finance and Administration