Regents approve $12.3M budget, students pay more

<p>Honored as the Staff Employee of the Year is Monica Park, center, who manages the Lawson Court apartment complex at the University of Science and Arts. She was presented the honor, which includes a plaque and a $500 stipend, by Regents Chairwoman Leslie Hudson in last week&rsquo;s meeting of the USAO Board of Regents.</p>

Regents approve $12.3M budget, students pay more



Taking bold steps to cover more than $549,000 in state funding cuts projected for the coming year, and more than $186,000 in higher insurance, energy and other “mandatory costs,” the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Board of Regents met on Tuesday to approve a $12.3 million budget for the year ahead.


A 7.7 percent increase in student tuition and mandatory fees will provide about $222,000 in new revenue, covering less than half the gap. Regents discussed the tuition and fee increase at length, and heard a report on student reaction, before approving it. To meet costs, USAO also will tap its reserve by $283,000 and absorb other losses through continuing conservation.


After making these adjustments, the 2011-12 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is about 1 percent lower than last year’s budget.


“Despite the constraints required to balance this budget, we will maintain an 8.3 percent reserve fund, as suggested by the Legislature,” said USAO President John Feaver.  “Students have been understanding in our discussions with them, and we appreciate the more than $400,000 in conservation initiatives developed by staff and faculty over the last three years.”


Administrators met with students in recent weeks about the budget, said Mike Coponiti, vice president for business and finance.  “Students are aware that faculty and staff members took pay cuts two years ago, which have continued, and that state budget cuts leave USAO with few options but to raise tuition and fees. They have been responsive and understand the need to protect institutional quality.”


Across the state, more than $58 million was cut to higher education as revenues were down by more than $600 million. USAO’s appropriation for the coming year will be reduced by at least 5.8 percent.


USAO’s “Education and General Budget” of $12.3 million includes a combination of state appropriated funds and locally generated funds such as tuition and fees. This budget places USAO’s costs at 63 percent of its national peers – other public liberal arts colleges across America – and near the top of regional universities in Oklahoma.


Under the new rates approved, a typical full-time student at USAO will pay about $180 more per trimester or $360 more per year. This fall, resident tuition will be $129 per credit hour. Regents discussed an even higher increase, given the budget cuts in recent years, but agreed that a 7.7 percent increase would be prudent.


In compliance with a 2007 state law that requires colleges and universities to offer a guaranteed rate to first-time, full-time Oklahoma residents – good for four consecutive years – USAO Regents also approved a new “lock rate” of $148 per credit hour.  Students can choose to pay the regular rate of $129 per credit hour or the “lock rate” that won’t change for four years.


In other business, regents approved the purchase of 47 new computers to enhance the campus computer network. These will replace 14 faculty/staff computers, 20 machines in student labs and 13 in classrooms. Under state contract prices, 45 computers will be purchased from Dell Inc. and two from Apple Computers. Total estimated cost is $55,000, to be expended in July.


Two roofs on campus will be replaced under contracts with J. Reynolds and Company of Oklahoma City and with Crawford Roofing of Chickasha. Reynolds will replace the roof on Willard Hall for $236,900. Crawford will replace the Power Plant roof for $95,400. Capital funds for this project are available from oil and gas revenues generated by wells on the College Farm property west of Chickasha.


Regents approved the refinancing of Lawson Court apartment complex through Oklahoma’s Master Lease Program, which allows state agencies to finance qualifying projects. Because of lower interest rates, USAO will pay an estimated $90,000 less per year in interest, saving more than $1.8 million over the remaining 20 years on the $11.8 million balance. Lawson Court was built in 2001 by the USAO Foundation Student Housing LLC.


As required by law, USAO will undergo a routine independent financial audit this year. Regents approved a contract for $16,450 with Casey Russell, CPA Inc. after requesting proposals from 22 firms.


Regents elected a new chair for the coming year and expressed thanks to outgoing Chairwoman Leslie Hudson, an Oklahoma City physician. The new chair is Regent Molly Tolbert, an Oklahoma City attorney. Vice chair for 2011-12 is Regent John Nelson, a Chickasha attorney. Secretary is Regent Hilary Kitz of Tulsa.


Also in the meeting, Regents Chair Leslie Hudson presented the Staff Employee of the Year Award to Monica Park, who manages Lawson Court apartments on campus. Park was praised for her leadership among staff and students following the recent tornado that left nearly 25 students homeless and killed one young alum.  Park was named earlier in the year to receive the Regents Staff Achievement Award.  Each of the winners of that quarterly award qualifies to be chosen as Employee of the Year.


In personnel matters, the board approved the appointments of two faculty members and three staff members.


Dr. James Finck was appointed as assistant professor of history, effective this fall. Finck earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of William and Mary, his master’s from Virginia Poytechnic Institute and State University and his doctorate from the University of Arkansas. He comes from the faculty of the University of Texas-Pan American.


James Vaughan will join USAO’s faculty as instructor in psychology this fall. He earned a bachelor’s and a master of arts degree in psychology from the University of Central Oklahoma. He earned a master of science degree from Oklahoma State University and expects to complete in doctorate in lifespan developmental psychology at OSU this summer.


Michael Ramsbacher joined the USAO staff in late May as chief security officer. He is recently retired from the U.S. Air Force. His last duty station was at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where he was security forces manager. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Park College in Missouri.


Joseph Evan Ellenburg joined the physical plant staff as a groundskeeper in April. He was previously employed with Halliburton.


Kenny Liles was named a security officer in May. He retired from the federal prison in El Reno, where he was a senior officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s from Southern Nazarene University.