Jan. 20, 2011

Council learns more about rec user fees

by Erin Rosacker

Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman, dean of students Dione Somerville and recreation services director Michael Giles fielded questions about the new rec services user rates for faculty and staff at the Jan. 13 Professional and Scientific Council meeting.

In 2008, council members passed a resolution (doc) in favor of continued free access to some recreation facilities, using employee wellness as a supporting argument for the motion. Hoffman said the university's benefits committee did consider a wellness program component in its annual deliberations, but the cost was prohibitive when given its mandate to keep the university's health care costs and employee copays low.

"It really is an issue of cost," Hoffman said. "Everything we do requires that we balance one cost against another." For instance, Hoffman cited the university's ability to restore the university's full contribution to employee retirement funds.

President-elect Ken Kerns said it would be fair for faculty and staff to pay for operational costs, but not the debt that students agreed to assume when they voted for the renovation and expansion project.

"The fee is being assessed equally, but you have two different types of users," Kerns said. "I think that's something we can open for discussion: What are the reasonable charges for faculty and staff and the uses they have, compared to that of the students -- and for the commitments we did not make that the students did."

Giles said recreation services' transition to an enterprise (self-supported auxiliary) unit moved all operational costs under one umbrella. Fees are not earmarked to pay for singular items, such as maintenance costs or bond repayments.

"That's part of the reason why the fee is across the board for all users," he said. "Your money does not simply go for you to use just one building. It does provide you global access to everything within recreation services."

Other business

  • Council members endorsed an effort reporting and certification draft policy, which will go into effect Jan. 31. The policy helps ensure ISU's compliance with federal regulations, outlining the processes and requirements for documenting employees working on federally funded projects and activities.
  • Council members also voted in favor of an extra-meritorious performance pay program for P&S staff. It was developed to replace a similar, but under-utilized, program implemented in 2008. The program provides supervisors with a method to reward individuals for extraordinary performances or accomplishments that go beyond the normal scope of their duties. Lump sums can be awarded for up to 10 percent of the employee's base salary.
  • Representation committee chair Sara Wilson reported that the council will lose one seat (in ISU Extension) due to a drop in employee numbers. She said ISU has 2,454 P&S employees, down from 2,576 last year.
  • President Gregory Geoffroy will speak at the next P&S Council open forum. To accommodate his schedule, the open forum was moved to Monday, Feb. 21 (noon-1 p.m., Pioneer Room, Memorial Union), instead of preceding the Feb. 10 council meeting.