March 25, 2009
ISU gets OK to proceed with retirement incentive option
by Erin Rosacker
Iowa State will move forward with its proposed retirement incentive program, after getting approval from the state Board of Regents at its March 19 meeting in Iowa City.
President Gregory Geoffroy introduced ISU's plan as an immediate cost-saving budget measure for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Under the program approved by the regents, participants must apply for retirement by June 30, 2009, and fully retire by Jan. 31, 2010.
Employees age 60 years and older who have been on staff for a minimum of 10 (consecutive) years, would be eligible to participate in the program. Geoffroy said an estimated 550 Iowa State employees meet those requirements. Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance, said merit employees also can participate if they meet the eligibility requirements.
Under the program, ISU would continue to cover the normal employee and employer costs of health and dental insurance coverage for five years, or until the individual is eligible for Medicare (age 65). Once the employee is Medicare-eligible, ISU would continue benefit payments at the retiree rate.
"We believe we have a number of faculty and staff on our campus who will take advantage of an early retirement incentive program," Geoffroy said. "That program will create vacant positions and budget savings, which will help units meet their current budget challenges."
A similar program also was developed for 110 ISU Extension employees who participate in federal retirement programs. Differences include the minimum age (50 years) and years of service (20 years) requirements for eligibility. Approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Office of Personnel Management would be needed to implement the program.
Parking fines increase, fees to follow
The board approved ISU's request to increase parking fines, including:
"These are not designed as a revenue issue. These are designed for conformance and compliance of the parking regulations," Madden said. "It makes the penalties more effective."
Parking rates for annual campus and Memorial Union permits got a first look by board members, who will vote on the measure next month. Most increases hover around 5 percent. The parking division plans to use the revenue to maintain and upgrade existing lots. Parking meter and metered lot rates would remain unchanged. Current and proposed annual rates are:
The charge for the first hour of parking at the MU ramp would jump 25 cents to $1.50, and the ramp's lost ticket fee would increase by $5 ($25). Other hourly ramp rates would not change.
Rec project moves forward
ISU received the go-ahead for construction of its $52.8 million recreation facilities expansion and renovation project when regents approved the schematic design and project description. Air conditioning and ventilation improvements for parts of the Lied Center will be the first step as the project moves forward. Bids for the Lied improvements will go out in April and work should be near completion by September.
Bids for Beyer Hall and State Gym renovations are expected to go out in May. Madden said bids for construction of the new facility (a 92,278 gross-square-foot addition to State Gym) should be out this fall and could be eligible for dollars under the federal stimulus bill.
Room and board rates
Each university proposed room and board rates for 2009-10, as well as five-year outlooks. At ISU, a double-occupancy room with full board would cost $7,204 -- an increase of 4.6 percent ($320). A range of housing and meal options allow students to create individualized packages.
In ISU's proposal, residence hall room rates would go up 2.5 percent and student apartment rates would increase by 1.5 percent. Rates at Schilletter Village and University Village townhouses would change to standard fees, rather than various prices based on square footage and renovation factors.
ISU's proposed meal plan rates would increase 4.74 to 6.98 percent (depending on the plan), and include a variety of weekly and semester options. Summer dining rates will go up from 0.2 to 5.4 percent.
Residence director Pete Englin said his five-year plan projects a gradual decline in future occupancy. He said that's a conservative estimate based on enrollment projections and which residence areas are available (based on repairs). Still, the occupancy rate is expected to exceed 90 percent through FY12, then more than 88 percent the next two years. The residence system boasts a 96.2 percent occupancy rate this year.
The ISU residence system also plans to tap $16.2 million in reserves for its improvement fund, using the money for both current FY09 and upcoming FY10 projects.
New biomedical center
The board approved the creation of the Center for Advanced Host Defenses, Immunobiotics and Translational Comparative Medicine, operated by the College of Veterinary Medicine's department of biomedical sciences.
The center's offices and laboratory will be located in the biomedical sciences wing of the Vet Med building. Dr. Peter Nara, newly appointed to the endowed W. Eugene Lloyd Chair position, will serve as director. Specialists from many disciplines already have been assembled as collaborators.
The research and education center is expected to cost $100,000 its first year, increasing to $615,000 by its seventh year. Start-up funds for the first two years will be provided by the college, the office of the vice president for research and economic development, and the endowed chair. Yearly growth is expected from external research funds.
Collective bargaining report
Regents heard a report on the AFSCME contract agreement, which union members ratified. Negotiated as a statewide contract, the agreement impacts approximately 6,800 staff at regent institutions. The contract included no salary increases for FY10, but across-the-board increases of 2 percent in FY11 (July 1, 2010) and 1 percent on Jan. 1, 2011. Step increases (4.5 percent) for employees who have not reached the top of their pay grades will be awarded.
Tom Evans, general counsel for the board, said about 47 percent of merit staff regent-wide covered by the AFSCME contract are "topped out" and not eligible for step increases. He said 58 percent of Iowa State AFSCME merit staff are at their maximum step level, followed by UNI (54 percent) and Iowa (43 percent).
More to come on campus safety
Regent Robert Downer withdrew the annual update on campus safety from the agenda, instead asking the three universities' public safety representatives to appear at a future meeting with more "short-term priorities" and "some uniformity" in the campus reports. In particular, he pointed to a statistical gap between the number of incidents recorded and the number of charges filed in cases dealing with sexual abuse.
"It, frankly, caused me some serious concern," he said.
Additional Iowa State requests approved by the regents:
The state board of regents granted approval for several ISU items at the March meeting, including: an early retirement program; a new vet med biomedical center; construction of the recreation project; and increased parking fines. Board members are considering proposed residence rates and parking fees for next month's vote.