Topics: Administrative, Board of Trustees

July 17, 2014

The Ball State Board of Trustees today approved general fund budgets for 2014-15, using significant reductions in expenses to fund more than $1.2 million for strategic plan initiatives as well as increases in financial aid funding, salaries and employee benefits.

Ball State has reduced expenses and reallocated about $15 million toward strategic plan initiatives over several years. The budget plan approved in May continues funding for strategic plan commitments while accounting for additional revenue and expenses in the strategic areas of international, graduate and online student enrollment.

In the May 2 board meeting, Randy Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer, noted that in the budget passed in April 2013, the state provided a $6.9 million increase in state operating appropriations for the 2013-15 biennial budget over the previous biennium. “The university is grateful for these new funds and the confidence in the university’s mission they represent,” Howard said. Howard also noted that state appropriations in 2014-15 are flat from the prior fiscal year and that the $6.9 million increase was offset by 2 percent in budget reductions from the state in both fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15.

However, he added that the university continues to absorb an $11.84 million reduction in 2011-13 state funding for operations on top of a $15.25 million reduction in the 2009-11 biennium.

Despite those reductions and significant inflationary pressures in areas such as health care and utilities, the university has managed to keep tuition increases at a minimum as well as provide raises and quality health care insurance for employees.

The budget passed today provides for a 4 percent increase in funding for university scholarship programs, following successive 9 and 12 percent increases in financial aid funding for each of the last two years. The new funds will help financial aid keep pace with tuition increases while enhancing resources for strategic recruiting initiatives for high-ability students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors and the Honors College as well as transfer students.

As previously noted, the university funded a 3 percent increase to the salary pool for faculty and professional personnel in 2014-15, with raises based largely on merit. A 2.75 percent increase in funding for staff salaries also was approved, and the budget for student employees was increased by 2 percent to allow for the hiring of more students.

Also today, the board approved the auxiliary funds budget and the budget for the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities.

In addition, the board approved an expanded section of the student code dealing with sexual misconduct. Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, highlighted the changes in the code, which put the university in compliance with new federal regulations. Bales had discussed the changes at length in a previous committee meeting last May.

The board also discussed the process and priorities the university will follow in submitting its biennial budget request to the state in September. The Finance, Facilities and Planning Committee discussed the university’s top capital funding priorities, including a renovation, replacement and expansion of campus science and health facilities, including Cooper Science Complex, that will focus on programs related to STEM and health professions; an expansion and renovation of the Architecture Building, which houses the College of Architecture and Planning; upgrading and expanding the campus tunnel utility systems; and renovation and expansion of an instructional venue for the Department of Theatre and Dance.

In other business, the Finance, Facilities, and Planning Committee discussed renewal of the university’s employee health care insurance plans and reviewed an update of the health care insurance auxiliary budget for the past and current year. Howard’s presentation included a preview of possible plan changes and premium increases under consideration for 2015. “Health care costs continue to increase at an alarming rate nationally, and we are not immune,” said Howard. “Our initial proposal balances doing all we can to contain premiums while keeping the benefits as valuable to our employees as possible. It’s a challenge every employer is facing.”

The university expects that trustees will approve final health care plans at its next meeting, with open enrollment for employees in November. New plans will be effective Jan. 1, 2015.