ATHENS, Ohio -- Efforts to reduce expenses and achieve a more cost-efficient operation are moving forward, it was reported to the Ohio University Board of Trustees during its regular meeting Feb. 12 and 13.
Gary North, vice president for administration and finance, reported to the board that the reduction of staff positions through a planned retirement program and position management with a goal of eliminating 200 positions is ahead of schedule. Decisions are not final on what positions will not be filled. The program has not impacted faculty positions.
Ohio University's workforce, as of Feb. 1, has been reduced by 220 full- and part-time staff members in the past year through a combination of attrition and the Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP), which allows classified, union and administrative employees with certain levels of service and/or age to retire early. North noted that 147 employees have taken advantage of the retirement incentive.
He further stated that an additional 190 employees are eligible to select the program by June 30, and he expects 50 to 70 to do so. North believes that the goal of reducing the workforce by 200 positions will be exceeded by the end of the program.
President Robert Glidden, in presenting an overview to the board, noted that budget decisions are "a matter of choices and priorities." He said the university plans to continue to invest in its vision, build on its strengths, adhere to the university's mission, maintain the attractiveness of university to prospective students and provide for the health and safety of the university community.
The board took action to continue a number of ongoing projects that were developed before the current budget crisis and which support the university's mission of maintaining a campus that is both functional and supportive of a quality educational experience.
The board authorized the issuance of up to $58 million in bonds to finance four projects or purchases. These ongoing projects have been in development for a number of years in combination with the purchase of an airplane that was made this academic year because of favorable market conditions that allow for substantial future savings. The projects and purchases include:
- Planning and initial project costs for the construction of the 180,000-square-foot University Center at the southern edge of the College Green. The center has been formally considered since 2001 as a replacement for the current Baker University Center, which was constructed in 1953 to serve a student population half the size of the current enrollment. The facility is scheduled to be operational between October of 2006 and January 2007.
- Repayment of an internal loan to finance the purchase of a 2003 Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft for use at the Ohio University Airport. The new plane was purchased last fall and, as part of the arrangement, the university traded in two planes and downsized from 2 ½ airplanes to one. Further, the new plane includes a 10-year warranty on all service, a significant savings in itself. Air transportation services at Ohio University are used in a variety of ways to further the institution's mission and, in relying on one plane instead of several, it is important that the university have access to a reliable aircraft. It is projected that waiting five years to make the acquisition would have resulted in a net cost of $7.5 million. At this point, it is more cost-effective to invest money in a new aircraft than to continue putting money toward maintenance of two planes that were both more than 20 years old.
- Refinancing of a note for an Energy Performance Contract for Life Sciences Center heat recovery and steam extension to The Ridges. This is part of an ongoing project to make the campus more energy efficient. The Life Science Center project involves the construction of a "heat wheel" that will allow the maximum recovery of heat from the air being exhausted from the building. Extending steam from the coal-fired Lausche Heating Plant on campus to The Ridges will substantially reduce utility costs at The Ridges.
- Phase 1 and Phase 2 of rehabilitation work to maintain the Lausche Heating Plant. The first phase includes rebuilding a boiler, and the second phase involves the rebuilding of boiler 2, expansion or baghouse capacity and design of the University Center chiller for the West Green central chilled water plant.
The board approved further action on five ongoing construction projects.
- Trustees approved construction plans and specifications for the new University Center and the awarding of contracts for construction of the facility, which is to be built at the south end of Court Street. State capital improvement bills over three fiscal years will provide $20 million in funding, and a student assessment fee on those who will be able to use the facility will generate another $40 million. The student fee will not be assessed until the center opens.
- The board authorized a $300,000 renovation project at Ohio University Pickerington Center. The project will renovate a 5,000-square-foot area to create two seminar rooms, a multi-purpose room and support areas to facilitate the center's broadening programs. The expansion is needed to facilitate the Executive MBA program, which is moving from the Lancaster Campus to Pickerington, to accommodate growth in graduate programs and to provide space for executive training programs.
- Approval was given to hire a consultant and prepare construction plans for projects to upgrade the university airport that will provide additional safety measures. The Federal Aviation Administration has made $1.3 million available for improvements, such as security fencing, and pavement and navigational aid upgrades. The university is required to match the funds with 5 percent, a $65,000 commitment.
- The board gave its approval to award construction contracts for the renovation of the second floor of Alden Library to become a Learning Commons. The $1.4 million project will be funded by $250,000 from the State Capital Improvements Bill, and Ohio University Libraries are providing the additional funds through private gifts, an internal loan and other funding. By consolidating the reference department, computer lab and writing center on a single floor with modern technology and many well-equipped group study rooms, the library will provide enhanced offerings and resources for its users.
- The board granted authority for work to maintain the Lausche Heating Plant by rehabilitating a coal boiler, expanding the bag house capacity and beginning design work to expand the chilled water capacity for the plant. The project is part of a plan to maintain the heating plant and expand its capacity to keep pace with campus. The $2 million project is part of the university's capital request for fiscal year 2005-06.
Provost Stephen Kopp presented an overview of the university's comprehensive, integrated institutional planning process, with a focus on aligning short- and long-term planning with the university's core mission principles and priorities of maintaining a quality, active educational environment.
Three university-wide committees are studying efficiency, compensation and revenue enhancement issues and will report their results to the president and provost.
The board appointed Stephen G. Wells to a nine-year term on the Coordinating Council at Ohio University-Lancaster. The board appointed Cynthia Henderson, Carl W. Jones and Carvel Simmons to the Ohio University Chillicothe Campus Coordinating Council.
Wells is president of Fairfield National Bank in Lancaster and chairman of the Fairfield National Bank Advisory Board.
Henderson is president of Henderson Pharmacy Services and co-owner of Medicine Shopped Pharmacy franchises. Jones, an attorney in Chillicothe, is a former common pleas court referee and assistant law director, and Simmons is president of Trio Enterprises in Cincinnati and owns and operates a 400-acre farm in Frankfort, Ohio.
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