Sept. 16, 2010

Regents approve expedited flood recovery, phase-out of athletics subsidy

by Anne Krapfl

During its Sept. 16 meeting, the state Board of Regents approved Iowa State's request to use expedited construction and purchasing processes (detailed in the Iowa Code) to get flood-damaged buildings back in use as soon as possible. Hilton Coliseum, the Family Resource Center in University Village and the Lied Recreation Athletic Center are three of the most critical needs.

Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden provided the regents with a summary and update of the campus flooding. All 17 buildings affected by floodwater on Aug. 11 are dry, clean and safe, he said, and reconstruction has begun or will begin shortly in many of them.

There actually are no damage/reconstruction estimates for individual buildings yet, but he said the current best estimate of total damage is in the range of $40 million to $50 million. This includes cleanup, restoration and some mitigation. The expectation is that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will reimburse 75 percent of costs not covered by the university's multiple insurance plans; the university, perhaps with state assistance, would cover the other 25 percent. He noted that things like employee labor could count toward the university's portion. A few other details Madden offered include:

  • The only building requiring replacement is a maintenance shed at Veenker golf course.
  • Flood reconstruction and reimbursement will take a year or two.
  • There are no plans to move any buildings currently in the flood plain, but the university doesn't want to deal with the aftermath of another 100- or 500-year flood. Mitigation plans will be important to this recovery effort.
  • University leaders have started discussions with city and county representatives about mitigation.
    "We don't want to take steps [for example, berms, dikes, levies] that will hurt others in the community. We need technical and engineering data to make these kinds of decisions," Madden said.

Phasing out funds for athletics

The board also approved president Gregory Geoffroy's proposal to eliminate, at the end of this fiscal year, the university subsidy to the athletics department. This year, $1.6 million in state funds is going to the athletics budget -- or 3.8 percent of the $41.6 million budget. The ratio of state funding for the athletics department has been incrementally declining since FY07, when it was nearly 10 percent.

At its March meeting, the board asked Geoffroy and University of Northern Iowa president Ben Allen to assess the feasibility of, and develop a proposal to reduce or eliminate general fund subsidies for their athletics departments. The University of Iowa eliminated state financial support of athletics several years ago.

The athletics department will continue to receive tuition set-aside dollars. The university sets aside 22 percent of tuition revenues for student financial aid (regents policy requires a minimum of 15 percent). The university allows the athletics department to retain 22 percent ($1.6 million) of the tuition generated by student-athletes recruited to ISU. Of that amount, $1.3 million will be kept by the athletics department and used for scholarships for student-athletes; the remaining $300,000 will be used by the student financial aid office for scholarships for general students.

Curtiss Hall renovation plans

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the schematic design and budget ($3.6 million) for the proposed student services mall in Curtiss Hall, a remodel of 8,850 square feet on the ground floor (south wing). It will be home to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' student services, career services, study abroad and global agricultural programs, currently scattered throughout the building. The project cost will be covered by private gifts. The project is expected to begin in February and be completed by January 2012.
  • Approved Iowa State's request to work with the same architect on the above project (Smith Metzger, Des Moines) and begin project planning on the proposed Harl Commons, also on the ground floor (beneath the auditorium wing) of Curtiss. Approximately 9,400 square feet of space on the ground and basement floors will create a new street-level entrance on the east side of Curtiss and a student lounge area, and provide space for the ALS college's agricultural entrepreneurship initiative. The project's estimated cost, absent a detailed budget yet, is about $6 million. It also will be covered by private gifts, including a lead gift of $1.5 million from Neil and Darlene Harl, Ames. Neil Harl is a professor emeritus of economics in the college.
  • Approved state appropriations requests for FY12 (due to the state by Oct. 1). The requests include continuation of permanent appropriations in the current fiscal year, new funding totaling about $28 million regents-wide for strategic initiatives and permanent replacement of about $9.4 million in one-time funding this year. The regents' enterprise also asks to be included in a state incremental salary appropriation, but doesn't have a specific amount to request, pending salary negotiations this fall for collective bargaining employees for FY12 and FY13.