Building financing, staff benefits get Board of Trustees approval

Topic: Administrative

October 1, 2010

Progress on the first phase of Ball State's Central Campus Academic Renovations and Utilities Improvements project will continue apace following action Oct. 1 by the university's Board of Trustees. The members voted to authorize the issuance of bonds to fund Phase I of the project as well as subsequent instruments to finance Phase II, pending state approvals.

In addition, the board authorized the university to refinance two previous bond issues if market conditions are favorable to reduce overall financing costs.

The board also agreed to extend the university's fee remission program to full-time temporary staff and approved the granting of honorary degrees to well-known broadcasters Steve Inskeep of NPR and Steve Kroft of CBS' "60 Minutes," respectively the university's winter 2010 and spring 2011 graduation speakers.

The Indiana General Assembly earlier endorsed student fee bonds for the central campus project — Phases I and II — to renovate North Quad, Teachers College and the Applied Technology buildings on campus and to make improvements to campus utilities. The debt service for these bonds ultimately is paid by state appropriations.

The State Budget Committee also has authorized bonding authority for Phase I encompassing North Quad, parts of Teachers College and some improvements to utilities. That portion of the work is expected to cost $33 million.

Because of currently favorable market conditions, the university also has requested the budget committee to authorize bonding authority for Phase II  — approximately $19.7 million — in order to complete the entire project.

The balance of the proposed bond issues would be used to refund the remaining balances on bonds from 1999 (Art and Journalism Building) and 2002 (Music Instruction Building). Interest savings in excess of $200,000 could be realized from the refinancing and will benefit the state treasury, explained Randall Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer.

Educational benefits

An educational benefit for university personnel now will be available to qualified temporary full-time staff, following the board's favorable vote. The program allows additional employees, spouses and children to enroll in for-credit undergraduate course work at reduced cost.

To qualify for the benefit, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2011, an eligible employee must be assigned for no less than one year and have at least two years of continuous service with the university.

At the same time, Howard said the university is moving administratively to amend the service staff employee handbook as it addresses leave without pay to care for an ill or injured family member and the use of sick time as may be needed for a recurring series of medical appointments or treatments. He indicated the changes bring those policies for staff more in line with provisions made for other employees and result from earnest feedback received during ongoing exchanges with staff.

Vital voices

The university continues its history of inviting influential voices from the world of journalism to be commencement speaker by scheduling Steve Inskeep, co-host of "Morning Edition" on NPR, and Steve Kroft, correspondent for "60 Minutes," to address graduates in December and May. They join David Gergen, former editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report and current CNN senior political analyst, who spoke at spring commencement in 2005, and David Broder, Pulitzer Prize-winning political writer for the Washington Post, the 2006 spring speaker.

"Morning Edition" on NPR is the most widely listened to radio news program in the United States. Inskeep, originally from Carmel, Ind., has been co-host with Renée Montagne since 2004.

His first full-time assignment for NPR was covering the New Hampshire primary at the start of the 1996 presidential election campaign. In the 14 years since, Inskeep has reported on the Pentagon, the U.S. Senate, the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Twice part of NPR news teams honored with Alfred I duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons for coverage of Iraq, Inskeep also received the 2006 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for "The Price of African Oil," a series on Nigeria's ongoing religious, political and economic unrest.

Steve Kroft's incisive reporting for "60 Minutes" has earned him great professional acclaim, as represented in his five Peabody Awards and 10 Emmys, the latter including an award for lifetime achievement. Most recently, he received the 2010 Paul White Award from the Radio, Television and Digital News Association (RTDNA), the highest honor from the industry's largest peer association.

Also a native Hoosier (born in Kokomo), Kroft graduated from Syracuse University in 1967 and began his journalism career as an Army reporter-in-uniform for Armed Forces Network in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star for meritorious achievement. His later work as London-based foreign correspondent for CBS News would include coverage of international terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, the war in Beirut and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

"With earthquakes in Haiti, oil spills in the Gulf, conflict in Afghanistan and the Middle East, our troubled global economy, the world's need for important news and information continues to grow as technology advances and the Internet expands," reflected President Jo Ann M. Gora. "Together with our continuing emphasis on emerging media, this recent launch of our new unified journalism program makes this a particularly auspicious time for the Ball State community to hear from two individuals at the pinnacle of the reporting profession today. I look forward to welcoming each to campus and to their insights on the forces shaping the ever more dynamic world in which we live."

Both Inskeep and Kroft will be presented honorary doctorates in humane letters by Ball State.

Under one roof

Additionally, the trustees reviewed and made changes to the university's investment policies with respect to its Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) Trust and Life Insurance Continuance Fund (LICF).

Over many years, the board adopted separate resolutions that established principles defining the overall risk profile of these portfolios and prescribing limits for particular classes of investments. According to Howard, the board's latest action "collects all of those earlier rules under one roof" and formalizes the procedures that the university's investment committee follows in monitoring portfolio and investment manager performance, and in reallocating funds between various asset categories.

As a related informational item, Howard also shared with the board the latest independent financial audits for the university's retiree health and life insurance plans. Each of these reviews included an unqualified "clean" opinion by the external auditors.

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