Sunday, Oct 22, 2017

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OHIO trustees approve retirement incentive plans, discuss renovations

 The Ohio University Board of Trustees heard plans for strategically tackling budgetary challenges and for upgrading many of the university’s residence halls at meetings yesterday and today on the Zanesville campus.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit outlined strategies the university has identified to address an estimated $20 million to $27 million loss in state funding for the next fiscal year at a joint meeting of the Resources and Academics committees Thursday morning.

The strategies outlined include implementing various methods of cost sharing, revenue generation and other non-personnel savings in areas like procurement, travel and space management.

Chief Human Resource Officer Linda Lonsinger also detailed several early retirement and voluntary employment separation plans for faculty and staff at the Resources committee meeting.  She said that nearly 700 faculty and 419 staff are eligible to take advantage of at least one of these options.

If the expected 15 percent to 22 percent of those eligible choose to participate, the university could save between $10.1 million and $13 million annually, after an initial expense of up to $15 million, a portion of which will be paid over two fiscal years.

The board members on Friday voted to approve a resolution authorizing President Roderick J. McDavis to implement an early retirement incentive program for faculty and staff.

These combined strategies are designed to provide planning units with increased flexibility and to reduce the university’s reliance on involuntary layoffs to fill the budget gap. Along with an eventual transition to a Responsibility Centered Management budget model, they will also help the university make more targeted cuts and build multi-year, sustainable budgets.

Golding and Benoit cautioned the board that the current deficit projections are only estimates and that everyone will have a better idea of the magnitude of the state cuts the university will face when Gov. John Kasich unveils his budget on March 15.

Residential Housing

Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith presented proposals from the university’s Ad Hoc Residential Housing Advisory Committee at the joint committee meeting on Thursday.

The updated Ten-Year Residential Housing Master Plan, which now includes the committee’s recommendations, calls for renovating or replacing 61 percent of the beds on the Athens campus in the next ten years. The already-renovated residence halls are included in that 61 percent.

The plan utilizes a three-phased approach -- combining renovations, demolitions and new construction – that would result in a reduction in the number of traditional rooms and an upward shift in the number of suites from 10 percent to 35 percent of all beds on campus. The university will maintain its current capacity of approximately 8000 beds.

According to Brailsford and Dunlavey Project Manager Kim Martin, the RHAC made these recommendations because they will enhance the student residential experience, support enrollment goals, maintain affordability and help the university improve its competitiveness in the state.

The project would be funded through a combination of auxiliary funds and debt financing over the next ten years. The university had explored the possibility of entering into a public private partnership to fund these renovations, but Smith said that at this time the committee believes the proposed plan will let the university take advantage of favorable debt rates and construction costs while allowing for greater control and more affordable housing options for students.

The board approved the revised residential housing master plan at its meeting on Friday.

As the next steps in this process, the university will join with PFM, Inc., to conduct a debt affordability study to determine the institution’s capacity to issue debt.  The committee will bring forward a resolution for approval at the April meeting that will include more detailed cost figures and a debt service plan.

In addition to authorizing President McDavis to institute an ERIP for faculty and staff and approval of the revised residential housing master plan, the Board of Trustees also approved:

  • A resolution establishing a Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaborative venture of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and the College of Business;
  • A resolution that affirms the board’s support of the Kennedy Museum of Art as a valued contributor to the educational and cultural ambitions of the university as well as an important asset to the region. This declaration is in support of the Kennedy Museum’s efforts to gain accreditation from the American Association of Museums;
  • A resolution to change the name of the Institute of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine to the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute;
  • A resolution to amend the Faculty Senate constitution to allow for faculty representation from the Voinovich School;
  • A resolution to guarantee the Housing for Ohio, Inc. debt, which supports the University Courtyard property; and
  • A resolution to approve changes to the university’s Internal Audit Charter to bring that document up-to-date with the Institute on Internal Auditors’ Professional Practices Framework, Ohio law and the current practices of the Internal Audit Office.