Topics: Administrative, Human Resources

May 4, 2012

The Ball State University Board of Trustees has voted to increase funding for most employees' pay at percentages higher than possible in recent years.

Salary funding for faculty and professional personnel will increase by 3.5 percent, which is allocated to various university units and distributed primarily based on merit. All university salary plans require a minimum 70 percent merit component.

"Ball State competes in a global marketplace for talented faculty and professional personnel, and attracting and retaining highly productive faculty and staff continues to be our highest priority," said President Jo Ann M. Gora. "While we've had to contend with very real financial challenges in recent years, between increased enrollments and ongoing good stewardship of our resources, we're delighted to be able to make this salary funding available."

Over the past three years, salary pool increases for faculty and professional staff have been 0 percent, 2 percent and 2.7 percent.

Salary funding for staff employees will be increased 3 percent, with a minimum of 2.1 percent for satisfactory performance. Service personnel salary funding will increase 1.5 percent. While the university's agreement with the union did not require increases, Ball State recognizes the challenging financial environment all employees face as well as the significant restructuring of benefits over the past several years. As a result, the university felt a modest increase for these valuable employees was appropriate.

The board also voted to approve a 2012-13 budget plan as a guideline for developing and implementing a detailed budget for each university unit.

Over the past few years, the university has reduced expenses and reallocated about $12 million toward strategic plan initiatives. New and ongoing strategic initiatives include increasing immersive learning opportunities for students, increasing graduation rates, maintaining best-practice and innovative use of information technology, and attracting and retaining a more selective and diverse student body.

Since 2012-13 will be the first year of Ball State's new strategic plan, funding will be set aside for new initiatives that will be developed in the coming months. The budget plan also incorporates additional income and expenses associated with three ongoing strategic plan initiatives: growing international student enrollment, graduate student enrollment and online enrollment.

Additionally, due to good fiscal stewardship, the university is able to offer increases in funding for student services and financial aid. Randy Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer, noted that the university already is realizing savings with implementation of Phase 1 of its innovative geothermal heating and cooling system as well as increasing savings from other budget reductions such as the previous restructuring of several benefits.

The university's nationally recognized efficiencies in areas such as administrative staffing, health care costs and energy usage, combined with increased enrollment, allows an average 7 percent increase in allocations for student services. The largest increases were for student activities, which will be distributed next year, as well as intercollegiate athletics, including scholarships.

"Most of the activities funded by these allocations have experienced increases in attendance as well as increased costs," Howard said. "Allocating additional funds will allow organizations to keep pace with increased demand and continue to add vibrancy to the student experience."

The board also approved several changes in the Ball State health insurance program to help contain costs, minimize increases in premiums and encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors. As an example, the university will be offering a $600 annual discount for tobacco-free employees and paying 100 percent of preventive care at in-network providers.

As discussed at the March board meeting, the university's self-funded insurance program experienced a sharp spike in expenses over the past fiscal year, partially due to an unusually high number of catastrophic claims. If the plan was not modified, all employees and the university would have seen premiums rise substantially higher than they now will, Howard said.

By making strategic changes to the plans, the university was able to keep premium increases as low as possible. For employees eligible for the tobacco-free premium discount, the average premium increase will be 8.4 percent, or $187 per year, but increases vary with the plan and coverage the employee chooses.

The board also approved renewal of the university's group life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance plans at the same rates as before.

In other business, the board voted to delegate the structure and approval of voluntary student health care plans and a new, mandatory international student insurance program to the vice president for business affairs and treasurer or his designee. This change will allow the university to quickly react to changes in the marketplace associated with federal regulations and student demand. While the university does not contribute financially to either of these plans, they are still important options for those who might not otherwise have coverage.

By Joan Todd, Executive Director of Public Relations