Board of Trustees approves budget

The UCA Board of Trustees approved the university operating budget for 2013-2014 at their Friday, May 3 meeting.

The operating budget totals $167,173,721 and includes cost of living adjustments for employees and an increase in student tuition and fees.

“We are pleased that the Board of Trustees approved the proposed budget,” said Diane Newton, vice president of finance and administration. “We feel like we are in really good shape being competitive with other universities while still maintaining the funding base that we need to do all the things that we need to do.”

Tuition and fees for students will increase 3.59 percent or $9.31 per credit hour for undergraduate students. The approval in tuition and fees currently ranks UCA fourth among Arkansas’s other four-year institutions in total cost comparisons. Several four-year schools will meet later in May or June to determine whether to change rates.

Under this budget, faculty will receive a two percent cost of living adjustment (COLA). Staff will receive a three percent COLA. The budget addresses pool funds for faculty equity increases, increases for faculty promotion and advancement, and other priorities set forth by the Strategic Budget Advisory Committee.

Additionally, the budget addresses diversity matters noted in a Higher Learning Commission report to the university. The new budget would allow the addition of one position in the current Office of Multicultural Affairs, a tracking coordinator in the Office of Human Resources, and an Assistant General Counsel. Vice President for Student Services Ronnie Williams would be promoted, with additional responsibilities and salary, to vice president for student services and institutional diversity.

The board vetted the budget during an approximate 45-minute discussion with several questions that included whether to increase student tuition and fees.

“My question is that if we are looking at increasing tuition and what’s reasonable or optimal is to have about $15 million in unrestricted/unallocated, could we not use some of that fund, some of that money to go into a fund and not increase tuition,” said Board of Trustees Chair Victor Green.

The university has set a goal to maintain at least $15 million in unrestricted/unallocated cash funds. The funds at July 31, 2012 were approximately $12 million. “I’m very proud of where we are,” said UCA President Tom Courtway. “We’re creating a cushion of about two months of available cash.”

Other board members, including Brad Lacy, Bunny Adcock and Elizabeth Farris, voiced questions. After the discussion, the board unanimously approved the budget.

The Board of Trustees also took the following actions:

• Approved a loan of no more than $3 million with First Security Bank of Conway to pay for skyboxes and a weight training facility and defease the current loan held by the University of Central Arkansas Foundation, Inc.

• Opted out of the Arkansas law which allows employees faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on college and university grounds. The resolution will be effective for one year.

• Approved a resolution allowing the university to go forward with a contract with Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. as the exclusive beverage provider for the campus. The board also approved a contract with BBA Solutions (Textbook Brokers) for bookstore operation and management.

• Revised the existing food service contract with Aramark.

• Approved a five year-history and goals of the Key Performance Indicators through 2016-2017. Also included is a projection of retention and graduation rates through 2022.

• Approved a resolution of appreciation for Dr. Neil Hattlestad for “his years of dedicated service to the University and to higher education.”