From staff reports
From sustainability planning to budgets to capital projects, the Ohio University Board of Trustees' Resources Committee agenda reflected the uncertain economic environment, even as the university is experiencing a strong fall enrollment.
Director of Budget Planning and Analysis Rebecca Vazquez Skillings, in her update on the current fiscal year's budget, discussed enrollment numbers, which exceeded budgeted targets for freshmen, non-resident, transfer, regional and international students. In addition, retention figures were up 2 percent over last year. She said these significant gains, largely the result of concentrated efforts from faculty and staff to increase enrollment and turn around an unfavorable retention trend, have enhanced the university's projected tuition revenue for fall quarter by $680,000.
Economic factors are offsetting the gains, however, according to Skillings. She cautioned that the university may still face mid-year funding reductions stemming from the state's consistently lower-than-expected revenues and a reduction in returns on investments, which had already been adjusted downward once.
As a result, the university will develop contingency planning capable of addressing as much as $5 million in state-support reductions and $7 million in investment-return losses.
The university already has implemented a hiring freeze as a means of containing costs and generating one-time funds.
"Since 80 percent of our budget is personnel, we thought this would have the most immediate impact," President Roderick J. McDavis told the committee.
Decatur also indicated that the university would be setting one-time savings targets for all planning units in order to guarantee an available reserve of funds.
He stressed that these plans are precautionary measures.
"This is contingency planning," he said. "We don't have any indication at this point (that these state and investment reductions will occur)."
He does not expect more solid information from the state regarding next year's funding and tuition regulations until the governor releases his budget in early 2009.
Skillings said the Budget Planning Council (BPC) is beginning work on the fiscal 2010 budget.
Planning for IT improvements
Chief Information Officer Brice Bible presented an update of the university's comprehensive IT improvement plan, which includes plans for technology infrastructure upgrades and a new Student Information System. These projects will cost an estimated $23 million to $46 million. (See related story.) However, cost-saving measures, including state and university shared services initiatives, should offset some of those expenses.
Decatur explained ways in which debt financing could be used to pay for these and other strategic endeavors and the impact that would have on university finances. The committee scheduled a meeting for November to review more detailed proposals.
In other committee news:
- Howard Lipman, vice president of university advancement and president and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation, presented the Board of Trustees with information regarding the preliminary planning for Ohio University's next capital campaign. The presentation began with an overview of the university's last two capital campaigns: the Third Century Campaign (1987-1993), which secured $132.7 million against a $100 million goal; and the Bicentennial Campaign (1997-2004), which secured $221.4 million against a $200 million goal.
Lipman highlighted that the next capital campaign will be strategically aligned with Vision OHIO and the university's academic plan. He also emphasized that the campaign priorities and goals will be identified through a careful and collaborative process, which will take place over the next several months. This process will include, but is not limited to, academic deans, unit heads, department chairs and school directors as well as the Board of Trustees, the foundation board, the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors, and other university alumni and friends.
- Ohio University Foundation Investment Committee Chair Laura Brege gave an overview of the foundation's investment strategies. She said that overall investments are reflecting the downturn in the market, but a new asset allocation model prevented a much worse scenario, judging from the Standard & Poor's index. This quarter, Brege speculated, investment revenues could be down between 6 percent and 10 percent.
- Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus discussed the university's energy use and an implementation plan to address House Bill 251, which will go forward for board approval at today's board meeting. Signed by Gov. Ted Strickland in January 2007, House Bill 251 addresses energy efficiency in state-funded facilities, including institutions of higher education. All state institutions must have a plan in place by Dec. 31, 2008.
- Decatur updated the board on the university's plans to renovate Hudson Health Center. The university has retained an architect to address programming, potential costs and phasing work. The project will be reviewed and evaluated by the Facilities Planning Advisory Council as part of the 10-year capital planning process.
He also said that the College of Osteopathic Medicine and University Medical Associates are evaluating the feasibility of renovating Parks Hall to make it a more suitable location for UMA. They also are in the process of exploring possible funding strategies and partnerships with strategic partners.
- Harry Wyatt, associate vice president for facilities, discussed reductions in the biennial appropriation from the state for FY 2009-2010 for major capital projects and basic renovations that the Ohio University Board of Trustees approved last September. The university received $835,000 less than requested. Wyatt said that the projects can be adjusted to absorb the reductions without seeking further funds.
The trustees' will be asked to approve the capital and renovation projects again with the new state appropriation figures.