A few updates as the Spring 2017 semester draws to a close

As Finals Week draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate our graduates during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work.

The results of that work can be seen in the students’ eyes as they cross the stage to receive their diploma and begin life’s next chapter. It’s a milestone for each of them, and a direct result of the contributions you make to this university.

As we wrap up the spring semester, I wanted to keep you in the loop on a few items of importance.

Budget update

As you are aware, higher education in the State of Missouri suffered deep budget cuts midway through the 2017 year and will endure even deeper reductions in funding in Fiscal Year 2018. Accordingly, we had to make some very tough decisions to make our budget come anywhere close to balancing. In fact, we adopted an $800,000 deficit budget for FY2018.

Sadly, the FY2018 budget could not accommodate any across-the-board pay increases and that’s a situation that I truly regret. But, we do have approval from the Board of Governors to re-evaluate our financial status at mid-year to see if we can make adjustments at that time.

The board also agreed to measure our “end of year” operating results (June 30, 2017), and see if we can possibly have a mid-year dispersal of the amount above our “forecast,” because we are currently on trend to end the year with improved operating cash (our critical number for the Great Game of Education).

However, the budget cuts for FY2018 will start to erode this cash balance rapidly after July 1 unless we are able to increase enrollment and retention and/or keep the Satellite Dental School money in the budget. Either way, the Board of Governors will re-examine our cash position at mid-year and keep the GGOE promise to redistribute the amount of improved operating cash established at the end of FY2017 if at all possible. This distribution could take the form of increased departmental budgets and/or stipends to university employees.

The obvious difficulty with state appropriations is the FY2018 decrease in core funding of 6.6% on top of the 4.0% cut of FY2017. And, the inability to make up the lost revenue with tuition increases without facing the possible consequence of being penalized 5 percent of our existing state appropriation. But, we will need to seriously look at a significant tuition increase next year even if we are forced to accept the 5 percent penalty, because the penalty is a “one-time charge” and the tuition increase would be permanent.

A last word about the budget: Currently the proposed budget that the governor has on his desk contains $2 million for MSSU to continue work on the Dental School partnership with UMKC (they have $1 million in the budget for the same purpose). However, this entry is again listed as a “new decision item” and on a separate budget line rather than being included in our base budget.

If the governor signs the budget in its current form we will still need to be very careful in how the money is spent or allocated until it can be included in our base budget next year (which is the plan of House Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick).

Insurance

As the university prepares for the 2018 Plan Year, there have been ongoing discussions by the Insurance Committee about reintroducing a health savings account option for employees.

A health savings account (HSA) can be used to pay for medical and prescription expenses in conjunction with a qualified high deductible health plan. Contributions into the account are made on a pre-tax basis through payroll deductions, and dollars in the account are tax free when used for qualified medical/prescription distributions.

The plan is to provide employees with HSA education classes prior to open enrollment so informed decisions can be made. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

In other news, the partially self-insured group plan that went into effect on Jan. 1 is going very well. Paying for each out-of-pocket claim as they are incurred rather than paying a fixed premium to the insurance carrier has already resulted in significant savings for the university.

Retirements 

It was my pleasure to attend Thursday’s retirement reception as we thanked faculty and staff members for their years of service at Missouri Southern. 

Retirees included Janette Van De Mark, Jackie Coose, Richard Compton, Dale Fletcher, Dr. Francis Bartholet, Dr. Deborah Brown, Stephen Schiavo, Stephen Jordan, Helen Regnier, Carolyn Carter, Jerry Robertson, Sheila Damer, Joyce Courtney and Rod Surber.

Those entering Phased Retirement are Dr. Jack Oakes, Dr. Scott Cragin, Chrys Corcoran, Christine Eller, Dr. Richard Miller, Debra Snodgrass, Stephen Smith, Dr. Pedro Talavera-Ibarra, Dr. Robert McDermid and Dr. Paul Teverow.

Altogether, they have given a combined 530 years of employment to Missouri Southern!

I want to offer special thanks to our two retiring deans – Deb Brown and Richard Miller. Their leadership and invaluable contributions to the School of Education and School of Arts & Sciences have benefitted countless students over the years.

Commencement

As mentioned above, our 68th graduating class will participate in spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Students from the School of Business, School of Education, and those receiving general studies and applied science degrees will attend the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. A 1 p.m. ceremony will honor those graduating from the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Health Sciences.

I hope that you can join us as we celebrate all of our graduates.

Don’t forget – we begin our summer schedule on Monday, May 15. Our work week will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Plans are underway for the welcome back meeting to kick off the fall semester. It’s tentatively planned for Friday, Aug. 18, so be watching for more details.

I hope you have a safe, enjoyable and relaxing summer!