Finance committee met Wednesday to discuss funding for capital construction projects, operating costs

The finance committee within Oregon State University's board of trustees met to discuss plans to move forward with its upcoming budget proposal to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Chaired by board trustee Kirk Schueler, the finance committee handles matters regarding budget proposals and financial administration within the board.

The first official board meetings took place Jan. 9 and 10. The finance committee then met last month to assemble and discuss its plans for the official institutional governing board budget meeting Thursday.

Due by April 1, the overall budget proposal highlights items such as continuing operating costs, tuition rates, construction projects and accessibility needs on campus.

The decision to submit budgets came early but followed the board's timeline, said OSU President Ed Ray.

"If this were just another year, and we were dealing with the (Oregon University System) board, this conversation would be happening in early June," Ray said.

Glenn Ford, vice president of finance and administration, and Sherm Bloomer, budget director, outlined plans for continuing operating costs and requests needed for capital construction projects.

OSU anticipates a 2.5 percent enrollment growth moving forward, according to Bloomer.

Between 2008 and 2014, OSU has made education more accessible to around 2,600 Oregonians.

It is currently estimated that OSU will propose to request around $393 million for operating costs and an additional $278 million for construction funds. Out of the $278 million, $10 million will be requested for accessibility needs, $5 million for information technology system improvements and $30 million for building and program renewals.

Some of the final requests on the capital budget list, including improvements for the College of Engineering and Cascades campus development, may not be granted.

Darry Callahan, finance committee member and vice chair of the board of trustees, described some of the university's wet labs and classrooms as lousy.

"I look at where we're putting faculty, and I'd be embarrassed to hire a new faculty member and put them in that kind of an office," Callahan said. "Where we are isn't very good in many places."

Callahan said he had concerns about rising costs affecting current programs and operations. In addition, Callahan said many of the faculty members were likely overworked.

Bloomer said this was exactly why the board needed to be assertive when approaching the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. More specifically, Bloomer mentioned the upkeep of graduate and professional programs.

"Graduate programs depend on that mentor-to-student relationship," Bloomer said. "It is, in the end, the most critical investment we have to make."

The board will meet from 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday to finalize its submissions. The meeting in the Willamette room at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center is open to all members of the public.

Sean Bassinger

Higher education reporter

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