By Jeff Murphy, June 22, 2020
WARRENSBURG, MO – After previously adopting a multiyear budget plan to address a significant revenue shortfall, the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors has approved additional budget measures that include a staff furlough plan and a temporary one-year percentage salary reduction for faculty and president’s council members during Fiscal Year 2021. Board action took place June 18 during a meeting that originated on campus and was also shared via livestreaming video.
Other actions taken during the meeting included approval of employee health insurance coverage, effective for the year beginning Jan. 1, 2021; approval of the Acceptable Use Policy and the Prohibiting Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment, and Sex Discrimination Policy; adoption of a new nutrition minor; and approval of new Graduate Certificates in Teaching Writing and K-12 Librarianship.
While the board welcomed its new student member, Zachary (Zac) Racy, Riverside, and granted emeritus status for outgoing student board member Casey Short, Greenfield, it also named Warrensburg resident Steve Abney to serve as board president in FY21, filling a seat currently held by John Collier, Weston. Collier will serve as vice president for the next fiscal year, and Mary Dandurand, Warrensburg, retains her seat as secretary. The board also announced the re-appointment of treasurer, Susan Brockhaus, who serves as executive director of administrative services, and re-appointment of board assistant secretary, Monica Huffman, executive assistant to the president.
In its May 27 plenary session, the board approved the FY 2021 operating budget that addresses a $17.5 million shortfall in revenue, but indicated that any further declines would necessitate spending reductions to avoid additional reserve spending. Within a week after the board took budget action, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced in a COVID-19 briefing that he was restricting all higher education core appropriations for the month of June 2020. This represents a $2.5 million restriction for UCM, in addition to a $4.5 million reduction announced previously and implemented for the fourth quarter of FY20. UCM’s budget also could take another hit from possible future withholdings that have been mentioned by the governor, but have not yet been quantified.
To address the additional financial challenges posed by the state withholdings, the board approved a plan that includes furloughs for full-time employees (75% FTE and greater) and a temporary percentage reduction in salary for full-time faculty members and president’s council members for the academic year. Furloughs are mandatory temporary unpaid absences in which employees will not perform any of their job duties for a specified period of time. The number of furlough days an employee will be required to take is determined by the employee’s annual salary, and will range from five to 18 days, with the highest-paid employees receiving the largest number of furlough days. Staff will work with their supervisors to determine their dates of absence, which must be taken between July 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Staff members who plan to retire after July 1, 2020 and before April 1, 2021, will qualify for an exemption if they notify the Office of Human Resources (HR) of their decision to retire during this window by Sept. 1, 2020.
For faculty and the President’s Council members, the temporary percentage reduction in pay will be progressive in salary level, similar to the progressive furlough days for staff, and results in salary reductions that range from 1.92 percent to 6.92 percent, with the highest-paid reduction going to the highest-paid faculty members. A faculty member with a retirement date after July 1, 2020 and before June 1, 2021, as documented by HR, will not receive a reduction in salary under this plan. To qualify for the exemption, however, they must notify HR of their decision to retire by Sept. 1, 2020.
The university will be sending information to employees in the near future to provide more information about the parameters and guidelines related to staff furloughs and faculty salary reductions, which are only planned for FY21.
Also in the meeting, the board approved awarding Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City the contract for UCM health care for the 2021 benefit year. In his presentation to the board, Bill Hawley, vice president for finance and operations, noted that in an effort to continue to provide affordable coverage for employees, the university in January 2020 issued a request for proposals to review employee health insurance offerings, which resulted in proposals by the current provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Blue KC was selected as the best option to reduce disruption to employees in terms of consistency with the current provider network and services and the opportunity for cost savings.
While UCM’s current plan has an Exclusive Provider Option (EPO) and Preferred Provider Option (PPO), Hawley said the university will move to a single plan structure, which is a hybrid between the two plans.
The new UCM Custom Network ( UCN) plan consists of the current EPO provider network but will now offer out-of-network benefit coverage. UCM also will continue to offer increased cost savings for provider visits obtained at either Saint Luke’s or Western Missouri Medical Center, as level I providers, but will now include benefits for providers outside of those systems. It is projected that based on current employee enrollment, combined with UCM and enrollee projected premiums, this plan will cost the university approximately $10.7 million annually. It will yield approximate annual savings of $196,326 for enrollees and $440,183 for UCM. While the monthly premiums for employees who are already part of the EPO will stay the same as 2020, current PPO participants converting to this new plan can save $4.92 to $140.52 per month, depending on the salary tier and whether or not they have an employee-only plan or a plan that covers more individuals.
The UCN plan will become effective Jan. 1, 2021, and employees will be provided additional information about how and when to enroll. The one-year agreement with UCM includes the option for four one-year renewals.
In taking action on policy matters, the board approved the implementation of the Proposed Policy Prohibiting Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment, and Sex Discrimination to comport with newly issued Title IX regulations and other applicable laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex. In May, the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations detailing particular requirements of the law, the first new Title IX regulations since 1997. Universities must comply with these new regulations by Aug. 14, according to Lindsay Chapman, general counsel.
The board also approved the Proposed Acceptable Use Policy providing a framework for acceptable use of information systems and technology resources as UCM. These provisions are an effort to protect the university, as well as employees, students, and other users from technology risks, and is designed to discourage users from engaging in activities that could expose the university and individual users to risks including virus attacks, malware, compromise of network systems or services, and legal issues.
The board took action related to three academic matters, including approval of the new nutrition minor in the School of Nutrition, Kinesiology and Psychological Science, effective for fall 2021.
In committee meetings prior to the plenary session, Swarma Mandali, professor and coordinator of the nutrition and dietetics program, told the board the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, announced a change in its eligibility requirements so that by 2024, the Academy will require registered dieticians to hold at least a master’s degree in a related field. The Dietetics and Nutrition Program at UCM has applied to open a new master’s program in nutrition and dietetics to prepare registered dietician nutritionists. The minor in nutrition will give students prerequisites needed for the Master of Science in Nutrition and address the change in CDR’s entry-level eligibility requirements for dieticians.
A new Graduate Certificate in Teaching Writing was approved for the School of English and Philosophy. Marc Joseph, school chair, spoke to the board Academic Affairs Committee about this program. He noted that the Higher Learning Commission requires that High School Dual Credit teachers without a master’s degree in their discipline complete a minimum of 18 graduate credits in the field they teach. The Graduate Certificate in Teaching Writing addresses the need for those high school teachers who have their Master of Arts in Education but wish to teach dual credit courses. The certificate program also addresses a demand among post-master’s teachers who want to certify their specialization in teaching writing and earn a credential to qualify them to teach at community colleges.
The board approved a 12-credit-hour Graduate Certificate in K-12 School Librarianship that prepares classroom teachers to become school librarians and to be eligible for a proposed revised path for certification by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Board action followed a presentation by Robert Lee, dean of the College of Education. He pointed out the Missouri Advisory Council of Certification for Educators, an advisory group to DESE, approved a new coursework option for K-12 school librarians. DESE is proposing in its certification rule revision four courses that are already included in the current Master of Science in Library Science (MS in LIS) degree. This enables UCM to use the graduate certificate program to meet DESE certification, plus it will also serve as a recruiting tool for LIS program faculty to actively recruit graduate certificate students into the MS in LIS degree program.