CUPB searches for funds, despite 2-year security

The Council on University Planning and Budget subcommittee, Business Affairs and President’s area, looked at the increasing utility costs, scholarships and technological centralization.

The three committees, which also include the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs committee, have been seeking $8 million to cut despite the financial security for the next two financial years.

Bill Weber, the vice president for Business Affairs, said if it comes down to it, Eastern can use $9 million from the reserves, which would have gone to the planned new biological sciences building to offset the growing debt that would ensue.

“We don’t see this project happening anytime soon,” Weber said. “We are still eighth on the IBHE priority list.”

Weber also said this is the last year the Board of Trustees allowed for the university to raise funds from money carried forward from the previous years. While they will be able to ask for a renewal of three years to reach the $10 million goal, Weber said they will likely opt out and abandon the project as of now.

Weber said there needs to be a more permanent reduction despite the fact that the university can survive on the reserve up until around FY2016.

All of the cuts do not need to be immediate and the university could for survive a couple of years.

Weber said especially with the new pension reform in the state, there will be an expectedly higher amount of attrition than originally anticipated.

He recommended they look at looking at the multiple technological centers and seeing if there is some overlap allowing for some cuts in those areas. Centralizing the technology support on campus has been talked about at other council meetings but it has currently not been researched yet.

Technological support exists in informational technology services as well as the center for academic technologies.

The effectiveness of a furlough was also discussed but it is a “last resort,” Weber said.

A one-month furlough of administrative and professional staff would be roughly $1 million.

“How much morale busting are we going to create with it?” Weber asked.

Kathlene Shank, the chairwoman of the special education department, said while it may be tough, even when talking about furlough, the council needs to look at all avenues.

Utility costs were brought up as well. Outsourcing is an option they will be looking into to for future recommendations to the overall council. Tim Zimmer, the director of Facilities, Planning and Management, said having in-house Building Service Workers has been a better option.

Zimmer said they have looked at outsourcing in the past and have not seen enough savings to justify the outsourcing model.

With outsourcing, the buildings would not have frequent cleans compared to now, Zimmer said.

Raising utility costs for Housing and Dining Services was also mentioned. Much of the overall costs for utilities come from the residence halls. While most of the cost for housing utilities is paid for by housing, some is not. Until recently, gauging utilities costs was based off an old formula, resulting Housing and Dining Services had been paying significantly less than what they should have, Weber said.

“Those formulas underestimated what those residents halls are actually using,” Weber said.

Moving to a consumption-based model, it was found out they were so far off the actually consumption compared to what they were paying that housing could not handle the sudden increase in costs.

Weber said he capped the increase to housing for utilities by 5 percent. He said he didn’t want them to have to “swallow the entire mouse at once.”

Weber said they would’ve have to increase housing fees much more than what would’ve been “politically correct.”

They also discussed putting a cap on the amount of Commitment to Excellence scholarships given out on “merit” for students.

Shank said she questioned how much of an effect limiting these types of scholarships would take on enrollment. Many who receive these types of scholarships come from higher income families. More controls over the programs will be looked at later meetings.

Like many of the other committees, this committee has only discussed and looked over possible ideas for cuts but their has been no locked-down decision on what recommendations they will make in the coming week.

Jarad Jarmon can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]