BOLIVAR — Southwest Baptist University’s Board of Trustees approved a preliminary budget for the 2017-18 school year during its meeting April 25.
This preliminary budget, set at $61 million, shows an increase from the previous year’s budget.
“It was a challenging year for budget planning, probably one of the most challenging during my tenure as president,” said Dr. C. Pat Taylor, SBU president. “Our faculty and staff did an outstanding job of providing information to our executive cabinet, who then had some very difficult decisions to make, especially regarding employee benefits. With 350 full-time employees and many other part-time employees, personnel expenses are a large portion of our budget.
“We explored many options for balancing this budget and believe that we have settled on both short-term and long-term solutions that will protect the University now and in the future against the many external forces that challenge us to continually evaluate how we operate.”
In order to balance the budget, the following personnel benefit changes were approved by the trustees:
- Health insurance premium contribution schedule — Effective June 1, employees will pay a portion of health insurance plan premiums. Employee contribution amounts are based on a sliding scale according to employees’ annual salary levels.
“Health care costs continue to spiral upward,” Dr. Taylor said. “It is common practice for employers to require employees to pay a portion of their health insurance premium. We have resisted doing this for many years but found that it is necessary to do this year. This change will be reviewed annually and is intended to be temporary until our budget situation improves.”
- Retirement plan amendment — Effective for all new employees who become eligible to make retirement contributions after Sept. 1, 2017, the amount of employer match for 403(b) will be reduced to a 5-percent match. Employees who are eligible to participate prior to Sept. 1 will continue to receive the matching benefit under the current schedule.
- Retirement incentive — A policy was approved to allow for the executive cabinet to activate, at its discretion, an early retirement incentive that would grant the retiring employee a portion of salary as well as a specified timeframe of continued medical coverage paid at the same contribution level as an active employee. The policy will be reviewed annually.
The final budget will be approved at the board’s October meeting when the most current data related to fall enrollment is available.
Other business approved by the trustees:
- Dormitory renovation — The board approved entering into a loan for the purpose of funding part of the renovations planned for Beasley Hall. Fundraising efforts that started in the fall will continue for funding as much of the project as possible.
Two years ago, the University started implementing a plan that included the renovation of Landen Hall in 2015, Leslie Hall and Plaster Guest Lodge in 2016 and Beasley Hall in 2017.
“Both current and prospective students expect to have nice residential facilities, so we made a commitment to improving the dormitories,” Dr. Taylor said. “We already had these plans in motion before we started working on the budget for the next fiscal year. The renovations for Beasley Hall are desperately needed.”
Beasley Hall was built in 1962 and named after Titus Beasley, a history and government professor for 32 years. Planned renovations include replacing the HVAC system that is original to the building, as well as major components such as windows with blinds and exterior stucco replacement, bathrooms, a fire alarm system, flooring and painting.
- Use of Future Fund earnings — Trustees approved the Future Fund initiative for the 2017-18 academic year to be the installation of a firewall that will increase Internet bandwidth. The Board established the Future Fund Quasi-Endowment in 1998 to establish funding for the overall future benefit of the University while designating instructional technology as a high priority to enhance learning.
- Adoption/fostering leave — Leave for adoption or foster care is now included as a sick paid time off benefit the same as the policy for maternity leave.
- Paid moving expenses — The paid moving expense policy was adjusted from specific counties to a distance of 40 miles from the campus.
- Post-retirement benefits — These benefits will continue to be provided pursuant to current policies during the 2017-18 academic year. The board has to vote on the continuance each year.
“I am excited about the future of SBU,” Dr. Taylor said. “We have new academic programs in development that are highly relevant to employment demand, we are seeing positive enrollment trends and we are planning for the long-term health of the University.”
Future board meetings are set for Oct. 16-17, 2017, and April 23-24, 2018.