From staff reports
On Thursday, Board of Trustees committees covered issues ranging from the budget to university accomplishments in the area of information technology.
Director of Budget Planning and Analysis Rebecca Vazquez Skillings stepped committee members through the fiscal year 2009 budget and fees, up for approval at Friday's full meeting. She also introduced a budget management plan, including contingencies, that had been presented earlier this month to the Budget Planning Council for review and recommendations.
Skillings said that despite continuing, slight head-count shortfalls, the university expects to meet its FY2009 revenue goals outlined in the budget, absent any major cutbacks in public funding. She also stressed that, due to the economic climate, the university has remained conservative in its projections. For instance, although better-than-estimated retention from this year will likely improve next year's enrollment, those gains were not factored into revenue projections.
Skillings also discussed a projected $1.8 million Intercollegiate Athletics budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, which resulted largely from a previous budgeting practice that over-relied on one-time funds. Athletics Director Jim Schaus is already identifying means of revenue generation, including more aggressive fundraising and cost savings initiatives that can address this deficit. Athletics also is in the process of developing a five-year plan that will focus on reaching a balanced budget.
Senior Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration Chris Clifford presented an updated version of the 10-year operating and capital plan for Auxiliary Services. The newer plan does not call for increasing expenditures, but instead proposes adjustments that can offset projected increases in construction costs. It included reducing costs and stimulating revenue for the Baker University Center retail operations, accelerating the Jefferson Hall renovation and delaying the Scott Quad renovation project, which will not occur within the 10-year window.
Up for board approval today are increases in the previously approved authorizations for the Shively Hall renovation project, the total for which has increased by $5 million during final design, in largest part due to increased construction costs. The board also will be asked to approve expanded scope for an airport snow-equipment facilities project, which has received grant funding for all but about 5 percent of the costs.
Executive Director of Facilities Management Harry Wyatt reported that the proposed campus health center as conceived will be unaffordable, based on a constructability analysis. A need for more square footage and higher construction costs would have pushed the project from $18 million to $30 million.
Wyatt said the university is considering possible renovations and additions to Hudson Health Center and Parks Hall as an alternative and will present more information to the board at a later date.
Vice President for University Advancement Howard Lipman updated the board on a productive fundraising year. For instance, as of June 23, the university had received 23 gifts of $100,000 or more compared to 15 last year. That number includes 10 gifts of $500,000 or more compared to a combined four in the previous two years. Lipman added that he would like to see the university average $30 million a year in gifts and commitments in the near future.
In other committee highlights, Clifford discussed FY07 financial ratios, which have improved slightly overall since last year. These improvements are due to the fact that the university has increased net assets and decreased its debt load by $10 million over the past year while avoiding new debt.
Chief Information Officer Brice Bible presented a one-year retrospective of accomplishments in the Office of Information Technology. These include completing a risk assessment, restructuring the department, creating an IT security office, establishing a policy framework, setting up the Information Technology Advisory Council and constituent advisory groups, and completing a comprehensive student information system readiness assessment. He also outlined major areas where OIT could effect savings through cost sharing and strategic procurement in cooperation with other Ohio schools. The committee emphasized the importance of pursuing the latter.
The committee saw for the first time a new Regional Campus Task Force report. It probed the findings, which Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl detailed, and expressed unanimous support for the important, overdue effort.
Among the many findings, Krendl pointed to the repeated recommendations relating to communication. The 27-member all-constituent task force expressed a need for better, more frequent communication among the regional campuses and the Athens campus. It also emphasized, however, that the task force process itself made important strides toward breaking down communication barriers and improving understanding among all involved.
Krendl also discussed the affordability initiatives that regional campuses will take. Each is expected to develop a model that will cater to its community's unique needs. The first pilot will take place this year.
Krendl also presented the current status of developments that have made a semester system become more viable and have led her, President Roderick J. McDavis and the deans to recommend developing a transition planning process. The board is not yet being asked to act on a formal resolution, although one could come forward in the fall.
Krendl also updated committee members on the Vision Ohio Steering Committee (VOSC), which refined and added detail to Ohio University's comprehensive Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan in May and made recommendations against viewing the plan in yearly increments. Krendl addressed board members' concern over the need for annual reporting, stressing that the committee is working on standardized reports to detail annual progress on Vision Ohio initiatives and will regularly adjust the plan as needed.
Krendl outlined the VOSC's three new subcommittees, which will help move the work into the next phase. Academics committee members voiced their continued support for Vision Ohio, and commended the progress achieved during the course of the plan's first year.
Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith reported the latest University Student Judiciaries three-year comparison statistics. The numbers reveal a 43 percent drop (3,089 to 1,769) in judicial cases over the past three years.
Smith also pointed out a 19 percent drop in alcohol-related cases over three years. He credited the reductions to sanctions the university instituted in fall 2008 to address high-risk drinking.
Other judicial categories that saw significant reductions included mental or bodily harm to self; criminal violations; unauthorized use of alcohol; and violations of residence- and dining hall facilities rules.
Smith told the committee that Student Affairs will implement a new alcohol- and marijuana-sanctioning protocol in fall 2008, which will include research-based intervention programs for offenders.
Internal Auditor Kathy Gilmore presented a follow-up report on the university's responses to audit firm Deloitte and Touche's management letter regarding the fiscal year 2007 audit. In response to the audit firm's comments, Gilmore reported, the university will adopt a formal policy on ethics and conduct, implement journal entry review and approval procedures, and complete an overall risk assessment of the control environment. Clifford covered other issues the firm identified and the university will address, including tighter procedures for payroll and purchasing cards.
Gilmore also presented results of a cash collection audit that her department conducted earlier this year. Its primary findings indicated that the university should reduce the number of cash collection points -- some 215 currently -- and institute more concrete guidelines for employees who collect cash as part of their jobs. Gilmore recommended a more centralized operation to provide better efficiency and consistency across the university. The Office of the Bursar will be the central cash collection point, when possible, and the finance department will determine which of the current collection points are still necessary.
Gilmore also shared results from the internal control self assessment survey, which the university sent to all benefits eligible employees as a means of educating them about the subject of internal controls.
A resolution will go forward to the board on Friday to authorize an Internal Audit Annual Plan for FY2009, as per the bylaws.
The Governance Committee reviewed amendments to the bylaws, made to reflect the current standing committee structure and responsibilities, and discussed potential topics for orientation and training during the Trustees' August retreat.