Board of Curators examines UM System's financial health

Thursday, September 13, 2012 | 7:33 p.m. CDT; updated 2:49 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 14, 2012
Members of Coal Free Mizzou asked the UM System Board of Curators on Thursday to move away from coal power at MU.

*The University of Missouri System ended the year with a balanced budget. An earlier version of this story suggested otherwise.

COLUMBIA — *The University of Missouri System ended the year with a balanced budget in which revenues exceeded expenses by $73 million, according to Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president for finance and administration.

Operating expenses increased at a faster rate than revenues due mainly to less state support and constraints on tuition and increases in compensation costs, Krawitz wrote in an email Friday. The difference between operating revenue and operating expenses was covered by separate funds, including state and federal appropriations and grants.

During its meeting Thursday, the UM System Board of Curators heard reports on finances and discussed how to improve its the system's financial health.

The curators also discussed reports saying there was a smaller return on the system's investments than in previous years, because of poor market conditions. There was a 1.8 percent increase in return from 2011 to 2012, compared with a 9.1 percent increase from the 2010 to 2011 fiscal years.

Krawitz said Moody's, a credit rating agency, considers the system’s finances to be healthy, which leads to low interest rates. Consequently, the system added approximately $15 million in loans during fiscal year 2012, which Krawitz said must be watched closely. The loan was taken out to finance the construction of student housing at University of Missouri-Kansas City and will be paid back over 30 years through student fees.

The curators also:

  • Heard the results of audits of the MU athletics department and the PeopleSoft Human Resources software used across the system. Recommendations for athletics focused on enhanced monitoring for purchases made with cards and ticket sales. The recommendations for PeopleSoft focused on controls to prevent errors or unnecessary user access to the system.
  • Heard from representatives from Strategic Investment Solutions, an independent consulting firm hired by the curators in 2011, who recommended a new format for the system’s portfolio called an “all-weather” portfolio. A portfolio of this type would balance risk with diverse investments, rather than solely focusing on return. 
  • Unanimously approved the development of a multidisciplinary studies degree for Missouri University of Science & Technology and a master’s of educational psychology for the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
  • Voted unanimously to rename the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UMKC to recognize the Regnier family, which has supported the institute since its founding.
  • Unanimously voted to approve a $1.5 million contract with Cannon Design to work on UMSL's new recreation and wellness center.

Also during the meeting, about 35 members of Coal Free Mizzou silently entered the room wearing matching yellow shirts for the “Beyond Coal” campaign. The student organization has been trying to get MU away from its coal-powered plant for three years, and members said they hoped today’s appearance would push the curators toward cleaner energy for the system’s flagship campus.

The Board of Curators spoke to members of Coal Free Mizzou before the meeting was called to order. Chairman David Bradley said UM System President Tim Wolfe and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton will sit down with members of Coal Free Mizzou to look at what can be done in the future about the power plant.

The Board of Curators meeting will continue 9 a.m. Friday at Stotler Lounge in Memorial Student Union, North. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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