The Western New Mexico University Board of Regents approved the university president’s 2019-2020 evaluation form and performance goals, the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year Audit Report, the Fiscal Year 2020 Quarter 2 Financial Certification, the Revised Capital Projects Transmittal for Harlan Hall (Phase III), and the Capital Projects Transmittal for Altamirano Field Turf during a meeting at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe on Thursday, January 30, following Grant County Day at the legislature.
“We’ve moved the president’s evaluation form to be connected with the strategic plan. At our last meeting, Dr. [Joseph] Shepard provided us with his performance goals in relation to the strategic plan. We left a category open for things outside the box, things we hadn’t thought of,” said WNMU regent Dr. Mary Hotvedt, who presented the university president’s 2019-2020 evaluation form and performance goals action item.
Vice President for Business Affairs Kelley Riddle presented the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year Audit Report, which showed a negative net position because of a new requirement how pension and Other Post-Employment Benefits liabilities are accounted for. “The change in our net position from a positive number to a negative number was seen across all universities. The fact that we have those liabilities is out of our control. If we look at those numbers without those liabilities, we went up about $5 million,” Riddle said.
Of the Fiscal Year 2020 Quarter 2 Financial Certification, Riddle said we don’t have any significant variances in our budget that haven’t been brought forward to the regents.
The change to the capital projects transmittal for Harlan Hall (Phase III) was due to an energy-savings addition. The construction is expected to be completed in 2021, and to ensure it remains on schedule, the $1.5 million difference will be fronted by WNMU, which will be reimbursed for that portion of the project. “We don’t want to keep our students out of Harlan Hall any longer than we have to,” Riddle said.
The regents approved a capital projects transmittal for Altamirano Field turf to open the space up for other purposes for academic departments and also community members. “Because of the wear and tear of use, the field can currently only be used for games. This is important so we’re able to use this space 100% of the year,” Riddle said.
Dr. Hotvedt was concerned about possible burns on players. “[WNMU Associate Vice President of Facilities] Kevin Matthes assured me that the turf installed during this project will be high quality,” she said.
The board heard reports from Dr. Shepard, the presidents of both Faculty and Staff Senate, and also the president of WNMU student government. Most of the meeting was spent in conversation with legislators and higher education leaders from around the state, however.
Speaking first, Legislative Finance Committee Chair David Abbey reported on New Mexico’s revenue stream, which he said is dependent the on oil and gas industry. “Any agency that comes to Santa Fe to get the money needs to know where the money comes from. Universities understand what could happen if the state overspends,” he said.
Representative Rudy Martinez spoke about the need for the proposed $3 million WNMU Veteran’s Center. “As a veteran, I would appreciate having a home at the university,” he said.
Dr. Hotvedt said she hopes the facility could be a draw for student veterans. “Yesterday, our color guard were all student veterans, and we were all so proud,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales brought up the proposed opportunity scholarship. “We want to ensure we’re providing — exactly what it says — opportunities to all students with the idea that they’re going to stay here in New Mexico and contribute,” he said.
Dr. Shepard replied, saying, “We’re an open access institution. This program also has a provision for those 24 and above to also get two years of higher education. It’s not enough to just figure out the 18-year-old but to figure out higher education for everybody.”
Tony Trujillo from the government relations firm WNMU employs said, “Western is positioned very well right now in many respects. I think we’re going to come out pretty well with what’s being considered by the legislators.”
Among requests WNMU made this legislative session is support to build on existing programs to create the WNMU Early Childhood Center of Excellence and to improve the Felipe de Ortego y Gasca Cultural Center, as well as funding for increased campus safety and a WNMU Deming Learning Center.