May 30, 2023

Paul Messplay: On the Money

As another school year chugs into action, so do classes and conferences, meetings and midterms, grades and – eventually – graduation. All the while, Paul Messplay’s mind is on the money.

UMW Director of Budget and Financial Analysis Paul Messplay. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

UMW Director of Budget and Financial Analysis Paul Messplay. Photo by Karen Pearlman.

As Mary Washington’s director of Budget and Financial Analysis, he’s the force behind the funds in UMW’s $129 million operating budget. And with 10 years’ experience in higher education policy, 13 at a large research institution and more than a decade at Mary Wash, he’s the man for the job.

Messplay and his team develop and administer the budget, prepare revenue and expenditure projections, monitor enrollment trends, keep an eye on the General Assemblyand state funding, provide materials for the Board of Visitors, analyze institutional debt ratios and instructional program costs, evaluate student tuition and fees, and develop long-range goals to support UMW’s master plan.

[Deep breath here.]

And, next year, guess what. They’ll do it all again.

Q: Accounting for a multi-million-dollar operating budget seems daunting. Is it stressful?
A: There are moments of stress, particularly when we’re trying to pull the budget together for the next fiscal year and need to make sure everything’s balanced. Fortunately, I have excellent colleagues who are very knowledgeable and skilled, and willing to put in whatever hours are needed to get the job done.

Q: Have you always been good with numbers?
A: I don’t think I have exceptional math skills, but I do like problem solving and analytical work.

Q: How well do you stick to your budget at home?
A: At the risk of sounding nerdy, my wife and I have been pretty disciplined in managing the budget and finances.

Q: Any advice for the rest of us?
A: The same thing I’ve told my kids: Come up with a plan and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but do somethingand start early with regular savings and investing. And, make that allocation the first draw against your paycheck. Otherwise you’ll just end up spending it on something else.

Q: Are there any drawbacks to your job?
A: State reporting requirements that consume a lot of time but seem to be of little value to the institution.

Q: What makes you lose sleep at night?
A: There are times when I worry about my job. I don’t want to be too complacent; that’s when mistakes are made. I lose much less sleep these days than I used to, but that’s one of the benefits of 30-plus years of experience.

Q: Any mantras you live by?
A: This too shall pass.