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WNMU Regents Meet in Santa Fe, part 3

Editor's Note: This is the final article in a three-part series on the recent Western New Mexico University Board of Regents meeting in Santa Fe.

The final portion of the Western New Mexico University Board of Regents meeting in Santa Fe on Jan. 30, centered mostly on financial issues.

Vice President for Business Affairs Sherri Bays presented her informational report.

"We're at 71 percent of budgeted revenues, which is very good," Bays said. "In capital outlay receipts, we are dealing with ongoing issues. We have spent 46 percent of the budget for information technology, spending less that what was budgeted. We have spent $3.5 million on the new student residential building. The construction is going lightning-fast, and is right on track. We'll be occupying it in the fall."

WNMU President Joseph Shepard presented the two new regents. Camille Hawkins is the new student regent, replacing the outgoing Kelly Clarke, and Dan Salzwedel, the new regent replacing Charles Randy Briggs.

Hawkins said she is originally from Show Low, Ariz. She moved to New Mexico, got married and is majoring in molecular biology. She is active in the Pre-Med Club and "I really like WNMU."

Salzwedel grow up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconson-Milwaukee, where he majored in history. He has a Masters in administration and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. He said he has been a teacher, coach, principal, superintendent, and an adjunct professor at Eastern New Mexico University.

Shepard said he has been occupied with legislative priorities. "It's not my university; it's our university. I am advocating for the present and the future of Western."

He is asking for $4 million to renovate Light Hall, which was built in 1927. Shepard said the Department of Higher Education is recommending the renovations, but has budgeted $2.5 million. "We are asking for the full amount, so we can turn the auditorium into a state-of-the-art facility for movies and speaker series."

"The WNMU museum is not in any of the bills, but Rep. (Rodolpho "Rudy") Martinez and Sen. (Howie) Morales are proponents," Shepard said. "We need to protect the NAN Ranch Collection. We are asking for $2 million, because the museum is now a national-caliber museum.

"Also in early childhood education, we want to be at the forefront," he continued.

"Students are looking for more wireless capability," Shepard said. "We are looking at upgrading the wireless, but Silver City has challenges with available bandwidth. We are also asking for more lecture capture for classes.

"We are forming tight relations with the city and county," he said, "and are considering a building co-financed with the city. It will include a banquet hall."

On April 20, at Graham Gym, a fundraising banquet will be held. "I even have my server's license," Shepard said.

The recent Science Olympiad drew 400 people. "I could feel the energy. We need to bring in more students."

He said Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs Faye Vowell would step down at the end of the semester. "We will do a national search to replace her."

Shepard announced that the Nursing Program received its 10-year accreditation, and "we're looking at how to branch into the outlying university centers.  We are also working with the high schools, too, on early certification of health careers."

Board Chairman Jerry Walz said Regent Tony Trujillo cuts across all political parties. "He's invaluable for Western.  Our legacy is to provide a quality education for current and future students."

He recognized Clark and said the regents had learned a lot from him.

Clark opened two packages—one with a banker's lamp and the other a plaque of recognition for his service.

"It's been an honor serving as student regent," Clark said. "When I first heard of the board of regents was when my sister called and said the previous president was interested in my serving. I said: 'Sure. What's the Board of Regents?'" I have learned a ton. It has been a great experience, and I have cherished it." To Hawkins, Clark said: "Listen, learn and teach them, too. Old dogs can learn new tricks."

Bays presented the audit, which received an unqualified recommendation, but had a significant deficiency in internal controls. "There were no deficiencies for federal expenditures," she said. "There was some misuse of funds by student government, which did not follow the group's constitution and bylaws. Through a special audit, we will get a full report. It will help us improve the university. It's a little bit of a painful lesson, but will help us improve our internal controls."

She presented a resolution requesting financial assistance; a reimbursement resolution related to bond expenditures for the Student Residential Apartment Complex Phase 1; a resolution of the issuance of refunding and improvement system revenue bonds, series 2013; and a capital transmittal form for Student Residential Apartment Complex Building C.

"We are eliminating Building C in Phase I," Bays explained. "We are asking for approval for reimbursement of Phase 1 construction and then we will move forward in Phase 2."

Paul Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets said the borrowing portion of the financing is a 2 ½-month process. "We are financing a little less than $8.5 million, with $3 million plus for Building C."

He said a $2.355 million issue would refinance the university's 2005 bonds, would extend it to six years remaining, but at a lower interest rate, saving the university just under $100,000.

Bonds for buildings A and C would extend to 2038, and the bonds for the refinance to 2019 at 4.11 percent. The repayment source is system revenue and will pay the debt before anything else. The Housing Fund is the repayment source. "We need to make sure it is self-liquidating debt. We plan to file with the New Mexico Finance Authority, and the status will be determined at its meeting in March. The application will go to Higher Education and then to the state finance authority. We also have options for private funding."

In addition to the $7.1 million, the university has $12.2 million in parity debt from the 2012 bond issuance.

"Our age of plant is 23 years old, as compared to other universities, where the age of plant is 11 to 12 years," Cassidy said. "Our debt service to operations is 4 percent, which is in line with other institutions."

Katherine Creagan, an Albuquerque lawyer, who works with WNMU on legal issues, reported the NMFA application "kicks off the possibility for purchasing bonds. The reimbursement resolution is for overruns. We have $1.3 million, which can reimburse the funds where they were taken from."

Duane Brown, an Albuquerque lawyer, said the authorizing resolution authorizes up to $8.5 million in bonds. "The parity obligation is the same as last year's bond, and requires the same steps for approval."

Bays presented the resolutions, each of which were approved separately. She said item E, the capital transmittal form student Residential Apartment Complex Bldg. C changes the four-bedroom, four-bath units to four-bedroom two-bath units for Phase 2, Building C, which will be LEED-certified. The amount budgeted is for $3.4 million. The agenda item, also was approved by the regents.

During the regents' information session, Baca-Argabright said it had been a pleasure serving with Kelly (Clark). "I feel the same way," Clark replied.

Trujillo said: "It is great to hold the regents' meeting here. I've been at the university for 12 years. It's always an honor to work with the student regents. It highlights the caliber of students we have at Western."

He said bills have been presented to change how regents are chosen. "Some want them to be elected. I believe it takes away from the way they are carefully chosen. The bills are aimed at different problems. I do not think elections would be good for the university."

WNMU Museum Director Cynthia Bettison, who is also a Propsector, said the museum would be featured on the cover and in a two-page spread of New Mexico Traveler. "There will be a celebration when the magazine comes out. In the summer, the museum will also be on the cover of Silver City Life magazine. We are not just making the museum known for research, but we are also an anchor for the Silver City Arts and Cultural District."

Kim Clark of Prospectors thanked the regents and the university for their support of Prospectors. "It started with our forum where county groups presented their priorities, and we chose from them. We want to move forward with bringing forward the priorities of Grant County."

The meeting adjourned. The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, March 18, at Western New Mexico University.

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