The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on its six annual meetings and a handful of other events, but a new budget proposal could decrease those costs.
About $302,000 was spent on trustee activity in fiscal year 2015, mostly for travel, catering and lodging. The trustees approved a budget of $229,000 for FY 2017.
Airfare costs are the largest line item. The proposed FY 2017 budget provides $90,000 for trustee usage of the UW aircraft.
Nearly $132,000 was spent on air transportation in FY 2015.
“The use of the airplane is a big budget item,” Trustee Dick Scarlett said. “There could be some tightening of the belts. We know what the costs are on those airplanes.”
Trustee John McKinley explained some of the cost details. The actual operational cost of the aircraft is about $1,775-$1,800 an hour. For trustee reimbursement purposes, the price is $1,200 per flight hour and does not including hangar-to-hangar times and similar costs.
A policy for aircraft usage could be created to help reduce costs, Scarlett said.
“That’s an area of control that there should be some kind of reasonable policy in place, unless it’s an emergency, so the plane just doesn’t go flying around the state to pick up a trustee because they want to come (to Laramie) for something,” he said. “I’m thinking of tuition costs, job security and staff at the university, and that’s where we should be putting our money.”
McKinley budgeted $10,000 in flight expenses per meeting, totaling $60,000, and added another $30,000 for discretionary use.
“It’s very important the UW plane is available to provide travel to UW trustees to the in-person meetings,” he said. “Because of the large geographic area, it’s important that’s available to encourage full involvement by trustees.”
Simply getting to the trustee meetings is necessary for the trustees to continue to function, Trustee Dave Bostrom said.
“Sometimes, especially in times we’re going through now, everyone has to do more with less, but I think there may be certain expenses and sort of things we have to accommodate so we can handle the business of the institution properly,” he said.
A provision stated any trustee living within 200 miles of campus should drive to meetings unless severe weather restricts travel.
Trustee Mike Massie said comparing this budget with the actual $302,000 spent in FY 2015 is not an accurate representation — the projected budget was $240,000.
“We blew the end off our FY 2015 budget and spent ($302,000) instead,” he said.” In the historical trend, what we’re actually saying is we’re stepping down from a projected $240,000 budget to a $229,000 budget. That $11,000 reduction is just a little under 5 percent reduction. That’s another way to look at it.”
One expense he suggested eliminating was $5,700 allocated for building and office rental. In 2015, the trustees spent $5,626 on the line item.
“That was used to rent a tent and tables and linen for a large community event that year,” he said. “When we’re thinking about the choices other people on campus are going to have to make — there’s going to be some departments that are going to be telling Mary you can’t come to work tomorrow, or tell someone they have to clean two buildings instead of one without overtime — I think we can get rid of a tent we used one time.”
Bostrom said the funding could be used for other areas on the budget if required.
“If we remove that, we eliminate some flexibility we’re going to need,” he said.
Catering expenses have also been a large budget item, costing more than $61,000 in 2015. McKinley plans on cutting the cost nearly in half to $32,000.
Some of the savings have already begun — trustees are now on their own for a morning meal instead of starting the day with a working breakfast and are eating packed lunches rather than a buffet.
“We save $2,000 a meeting if we eat beforehand and then come to the meeting,” McKinley said.
Two dinners per meeting — one provided from UW dining services and another for supper in a local restaurant — are included in the budget.
Three large events are also integrated into the budget at a cost of $4,000 per event. Trustee Mel Baldwin suggested lowering the total to $9,000 and eliminating any restrictions on the number of events.
“I think $12,000 is more than we should be spending,” he said. “To be honest, I can go to a lot of really good steakhouses and other places and get a lot better meal for a lot lower than $40-$50. In my mind, it seems very excessive, and I think we could do better.”
Massie also said $12,000 is excessive and, if the goal is to meet and interact with constituents, there are other options.
“I think there’s better ways of meeting with folks — we can have them in here, if we want to invite deans and vice presidents,” he said. “We can have receptions that don’t cost a lot of money. There’s lots of ways to talk with our constituents other than having a lot of beer and wine before hand and then a $50-a-plate banquet during these financially difficult times.”
One item from the original proposed budget was eliminated through an amendment — a printing service used to track newspaper articles from around the country — which was budgeted at $5,000 and cost about $5,700 in 2015.
Bostrom regularly uses the service, which sent a group of articles once or twice a week to the subscribers.
“I live in the northern part of the state and don’t see everything, and they compile everything from literally across the country,” he said. “That’s very important to me.”
Four trustees and a handful of administrators currently receive the clips, explained Chris Boswell, vice president for governmental and community affairs.
While the line item amounts to about 2.1 percent of the proposed trustee budget, every unnecessary item cut is important, Trustee Mike Massie said.
“This budget is our weeds, so we should be tromping around in them,” he said.
The budget was passed with trustees Massie, Baldwin, Michelle Sullivan and Larry Gubbels voting against it.
“As a board of trustees, we have to make these cuts wherever possible, because we’re going to vote other departments and expect them to do it,” Gubbels said.
“We have to be willing to do it also.”
By the numbers
Money spent in FY 2015
UW food catering: $61,033
Total budget: $301,970
Proposed budget for FY 2017
UW food catering: $32,000
Total budget: $229,000