Board takes action on broad range of topics at June meeting

Email this article 06/29/2012

It was a busy night for SWTJC trustees during the board's regular monthly meeting on June 28 in Uvalde.

Highlighting the action taken, the board adopted an operating budget for fiscal year 2013, approved issuing maintenance tax notes for an energy savings project and voted to move forward with a facilities expansion project for the Del Rio campus.

The fiscal year 2012-2013 budget is balanced at $42,8 million dollars, down just over $1 million from the 2011-2012 budget.

Decreases in state support account for most of the drop, but president-elect Hector Gonzales told the board it is beginning to look like the state may not cut quite as deeply as originally anticipated.

"This budget is based on loss in appropriations of $539,000 and an increase in the college's contribution to employee retirement of $200,000," Gonzales said. "But it is beginning to look like the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) may reduce the loss in appropriations by $350,000 and the state may go ahead and cover the employee retirement obligation."

Gonzales said the college doesn't know what the final decision will be, but asked and received the board's approval to use a portion of any reduction in anticipated cuts to increase employee salaries.

"The budget you are approving incorporates steps and increments, the equivalent of 1.2% in increases for unclassified positions and extends all salary schedules by one year," Gonzales said. "If the state cuts aren't as bad as projected I'd like to ask your approval to use part of the extra $500,00 we may have available to increase salaries by as much as 3.5%."

Board members also approved authorizing the issuance of bank qualified series 2012 maintenance notes of $2.5 million to finance an energy savings project on the Uvalde campus and at the Crystal City Instructional facility.

The project will include a variety of air-conditioning replacements and upgrades, lighting retrofits and other energy saving improvements. Similar activities in Del Rio and Eagle Pass will be funded through the SWTJC Foundation.

The board approved financing the notes through Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) on a 12-year note with a 2.39% interest rate. The notes will be serviced through energy savings estimated at 17% annually.

Juan Aguilera of Escamilla, Poneck & Cruz, LLP, told the board the interest rate is one of the lowest he has ever seen. "We usually send out requests for proposals to ten lending institutions and get back maybe three, but SWTJC received eight proposals and the interest rates were the best we've seen," Aguilera said. "This is a testament to the financial strength of your institution and the staff you have in place."

With the SWTJC board's approval, the next step will be to file papers with the state attorney general's office. Aguilera said he expects the funds to be available by July 26.

Following the regular board meeting, the SWTJC Foundation, Inc., met and reviewed the site plan for expansions to the SWTJC campus in Del Rio.

Tom Ferrell, of the architectural firm Ferrell/Brown and Associates in Corpus Christi, outlined plans for the project which includes the addition of a new 36,000 square-foot academic building, a new 5,900 square-foot administration building and various remodeling projects on existing buildings.

The foundation board approved the site plan and Ferrell will be back in August with detailed plans for the project which will cost an estimated $7.9 million. The board also authorized president-elect Gonzales to begin negotiations to secure financing for the project.

Construction on the project could begin as early as December of this year.

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