OU Trustees approve budget, capital plan

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the fiscal year 2016 budget and Capital Improvement Plan at meetings on the university’s Southern Campus last week.

According to a news release, Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit and Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Golding reviewed the university’s FY 2016 budget at a joint meeting of the Resources and Academics committees Thursday morning.

Officials built the financial document around university priorities and assumptions about the state of Ohio’s biennial budget that are in line with recommendations Gov. John Kasich released earlier this year.

At the time of the meetings last week, the state legislature had yet to pass its biennial budget. The university has contingency plans in place should the state’s final budget differ significantly from these assumptions.

According to a news release from OU, the budget presented to the board illustrates the university’s progress toward creating a sustainable business model that supports OU’s core academic mission while confronting long-term funding challenges. These include the need to enhance financial aid, control student costs, encourage innovation and finance strategic initiatives.

Investments in employee compensation are likewise integrated into FY 2016 with the inclusion of a 2 percent raise pool for faculty and staff. In addition, the university has budgeted an averaged 1.36 percent pool for the Faculty Compensation Initiative and a 1 percent pool as part of COMP 2014. Employee raises cannot be finalized until after the state budget is complete. However, if they are implemented as planned, it is expected that they will be retroactive to July 1.

This budget is also the first to incorporate The Ohio Guarantee, a comprehensive tuition model that ensures a student’s cost to attend OU – including tuition, room, board and most student fees – will hold constant for 12 consecutive semesters.

The FY 2016 Capital Improvement Plan addresses other top priorities for Ohio University. The board reviewed plans for the next year that detail current projects, upcoming major renovations, deferred maintenance priorities and investments in areas including capital and technological infrastructure. OU will fund these projects with a combination of Century Bond funding, gifts, state money and other institutional resources.

The university prioritized the projects based on criteria such as financial feasibility, safety and compliance considerations, programmatic impact and long-term needs. The trustees will provide input into that last piece more completely in January with their review of the in-progress Comprehensive Master Plan.

Another element that will feed into the comprehensive planning process is the Ridges Framework Plan. According to Director of University Planning and Space Management Shawna Bolin and Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College Joseph Shields, the Ridges Framework Plan Committee and a team of consultants – in conjunction with other university and community partners – are focused on defining planning principles to guide development of the property in a way that respects its history while supporting the university’s mission.

The ultimate usage of the buildings and surrounding land at The Ridges will depend strongly on the needs determined by the Comprehensive Master Plan.

Space for academic programs, administrative offices, housing, recreation and retail businesses represent some of the possibilities. Once the university determines a vision for the future of The Ridges, the next steps will involve exploring financial options to make those plans a reality.