The rookie University of North Texas president gave the school’s first ever State of the University speech on Wednesday, and immediately tackled the budget problems.
Neal Smatresk has only been UNT president since February. Soon after arriving, school officials found UNT had for a decade spent more than $83 million it shouldn’t have, and incorrectly figured on another $23 million coming in.
Smatresk told his university audience that fixing the school’s budget has been Job One.
“Because if we can’t manage resources, well, we can’t reach our goals," he said. "Of course I got here, people set my hair on fire, and I can’t afford that."
Smatresk, who is slightly bald, hired a new financial director whose work he’s called miraculous.
They set about meeting UNT’s fiscal challenges and, for a change, Smatresk offered some good financial news.
“Sometime this week, I think we’re going to be able to announce FY ‘13 has been reconciled,” Smatresk said. “That’s a big deal. We will then, by the end of November, be able to say we have reconciled FY ‘14. So for the first time in a long time we’re going to stand on solid ground from a fiscal perspective.”
Smatresk spoke for about an hour, emphasizing faculty, staff and student highlights. He also praised the school’s new plan that gives students a discount if they graduate in four years. Half the incoming class signed up for it.