Trustees Sharpen Focus on Next Year’s Budget Picture
- By Thomas James Weaver
While last week’s October meetings of the UVM Board of Trustees lacked headline votes on the next fiscal year’s budget or major new building projects, they did provide a strong sense of recent progress and the road ahead. Trustees considered preliminary numbers regarding the FY 2015 budget, approved renovations to the Miller Research Complex at the Spear Street Farm, and heard reports on recent enhancements to UVM’s Career Services programs, among other business at the Oct. 25 and 26 meetings.
Budget, Finance and Investment Committee members received an update on the outlook for the FY 2015 budget from David Rosowsky, provost and senior vice president, and Richard Cate, vice president for finance and university treasurer. A number of strategies and tradeoffs are being considered in the development of a balanced budget that will also close a $6.7 million revenue-related gap from FY 2014. Possible steps include generating new revenue; moderate adjustments to benefits packages; modest budget reductions; a reasonable tuition increase; and a competitive financial aid strategy. A more detailed discussion of the budget will resume in February, followed by a planning meeting on April 12, and leading to a vote on a final budget at the May 16 trustees meeting.
"This is manageable. By working together and supporting each other, we will be successful in achieving a balanced budget consistent with the Strategic Action Plan," President Tom Sullivan told the trustees, adding that the budget process will include ongoing engagement with the entire campus community.
On longer-term fiscal matters, both President Sullivan and Provost Rosowsky spoke of quick progress and broad campus participation in the development of the new Incentive-based Budgeting (IBB) model. Sullivan promised that “this will be a transformation in how we lead, think and behave.” Rosowsky told trustees that IBB has been among his top priorities since assuming the provost’s post in late summer. Noting that he’s extremely encouraged by the level of campus engagement in the planning process, Rosowsky emphasized the tight mesh of IBB with the goals for academic excellence outlined in the Strategic Action Plan.
There was good news on the fundraising front from Richard Bundy, CEO of the University of Vermont Foundation. Bundy reported that FY ’13 pledges totaled $44.5 million and the foundation received a record total of receipts at $37 million. The new fiscal year is off to a strong start with a record first-quarter total at $6.5 million. The university is significantly ahead of pace on a provisional goal of $500 million for the next comprehensive fundraising campaign, Bundy said, and the university’s endowment has surpassed $400 million for the first time.
Trustees approved three capital projects. Phase I of the Miller Research Complex ($1.8 million) includes the replacement of worn, outdated farm buildings with new state-of-the-art facilities for milking, instruction and research at the Spear Street Farm. The Larner Classroom ($1.25 million) project involves the construction of a 120-seat classroom in the Given Courtyard to facilitate team-based learning in College of Medicine courses. Deferred maintenance and renovations were approved for several student residential facilities, including Slade Hall, Harris-Millis Residential Complex, and Trinity Campus buildings, projects totaling $4 million.
From Board Chair Robert Cioffi’s opening comments onward, trustees and UVM officials lauded recent progress in enhancing career services at the university. The initiatives grow from a report and action plan on career services spearheaded by Abu Rizvi, Honors College dean, at the direction of President Sullivan. The creation of the Career Hub in the Davis Center is the most visible among several swiftly implemented steps. Pamela K. Gardner, director of career services, told trustees that the Davis Center facility has had more than 800 visitors in its first four weeks. Both Gardner and Vice President Annie Stevens emphasized that effective career services programming requires engaging students from their first year on campus and depends upon broad participation of the campus community, with faculty and alumni playing critical roles.
The Board also formally adopted the 2013 Strategic Action Plan. “This is a very dynamic, organic document. It’s a part of our day-to-day planning and action,” President Sullivan said, promising that it will continue to evolve and that the administration will report regularly to the board on progress in meeting the plan’s goals.
In other news
Trustees were updated on the work of UVM’s three Transdisciplinary Research Initiatives: Complex Systems, Food Systems, and Neuroscience, Behavior & Health. All three have brought in impressive levels of grant funding, and Provost Rosowsky noted that initiatives that reach across disciplines are well-positioned in the battle for dwindling federal support. “I’ve seen other schools go down this path, but few can claim greater success so early out of the gates,” Rosowsky said.
Approximately 150 students interrupted the morning meeting of the Budget, Finance & Investment meeting with a protest calling for UVM divestment from fossil-fuel holdings. The issue wasn’t on the agenda for these meetings, but the trustee’s Investment Subcommittee will consider the divestment question in the months ahead and make a recommendation on the question.
Paula Carlaccini, director of Facilities Design & Construction, reported the architectural team for the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) building/renovation project recently held initial meetings with deans and faculty and will continue to meet and develop programming plans over the next several months to complete by February. Next step anticipated: schematic designs with a cost estimate for Board review at the May meeting with the hope to move forward on the first phase of construction in spring 2015.
Trustees voted to set summer tuition at 30 percent below that of the 2013-2014 academic year. The reduction would put tuition at $400 per credit hour for in-state students and $1,010 per credit hour for out-of-state students.
Trustees passed resolutions in memoriam of Rayburn V. Lavigne and Hubert W. Vogelmann. Lavigne was a UVM alumnus and longtime vice president of the university. Vogelmann, a UVM faculty member for decades, was internationally known for his work on the effect of acid rain on northern forests and was a pioneer of the Vermont conservation movement.