State Likely To Fund Majority of Bureau Construction

SOCORRO, N.M. February 14, 2012– University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez told the Board of Regents that he’s confident that Tech will receive at least $18 million for construction of a new building for the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources.

The Board met in regular session Friday in Santa Fe. Lopez said Governor Susana Martinez has recommended $23 million be allocated for the project. The Legislative Finance Committee has recommended $18 million.

“If we can get somewhere in between [those two recommendations], we can get the building started,” Lopez said.

The Bureau is a non-regulatory state agency launched in 1927 and housed at New Mexico Tech since its birth. The Bureau’s current building is outdated and antiquated. Tech has been lobbying for construction funding from the state for more than five years.

If funded, the new building would be constructed at the current location of the Information Services Department, or ISD.

Lopez also reported that House Bill 2, which is the state’s budget, includes an increase of $671,000 for the university. However, about half of that amount will replace a shortfall in the retirement program. The good news for employees is that the state will now cover the 1.75 percent increase that was passed on to employees in 2011.

New Mexico Tech’s annual funding requests for “special projects” will see no decrease. These requests include research divisions like Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, the Petroleum Recovery Research Center, the Bureau of Geology and others. Over the past four years, the “special projects” have suffered larger budget cuts than the university’s general budget.

In other funding news, Lopez said a wrinkle in the new funding formula has prompted a change in graduate course grading. The new formula only counts graduate courses that award letter grades; many Tech graduate courses are pass-fail.

“We’re going to give them a letter grade to make sure they don’t fall out [of the formula] when calculations are being made,” Lopez said.

In other agenda items:

  • Mike Kloeppel, director of the Admission Office, reported that paid applications for new students entering in the fall 2012 semester are outpacing last year’s figure. As of January 31, 156 new students have paid, compared to 125 at the same time in 2011. Kloeppel said recruiters are making headway in Albuquerque and by targeting community college transfers. Despite being short-handed during the 2010-2011 school year, the Admission Office recorded the largest class of freshmen for the fall 2011 semester. Now, with a full staff, Kloeppel said Tech recruiters can focus additional attention on other areas, notably the Four Corners region. “
  • The Board learned that Tech has approved full-year sabbatical leave for two professors in the Earth and Environmental Science Department. Dr. Rick Aster and Dr. Peter Mozley will begin their sabbatical leaves in August 2012. Aster will be conducting research at the National Earthquake Information Center and the Colorado School of Mines, both in Golden, Colo. Mozley will be working on carbon sequestration research with colleagues at Sandia National Laboratory.
  • Scott Elias of Moss Adams, Tech’s external auditing firm, presented the Regents with the annual audit. Elias said his firm returned an unqualified opinion, which means Tech’s financial reporting is within all standards and general practices. The report included several “findings,” which are recommendations for improvements or changes. Board members questioned Elias at length about the audit procedure and the findings.
  • A committee of faculty and staff members has been considering alternatives to Tech’s current self-insured plan. That committee most likely will recommend a fully insured plan. Tech is aiming to maintain the same level of health coverage and minimize premium increase to employees. Human Resources Director Joann Salome said once Tech selects a plan her office will schedule a Benefits Fair to acquaint all employees with the health insurance plan – and all other employee benefits.
  • The Board changed meeting dates for March and April. The Board will meet on Friday, March 30, and Tuesday, April 24.
  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity presented the Board with graduation lists for November, December and January. The November list includes one master’s and one doctorate. The December list includes one doctorate. The January list includes 47 bachelor’s, 18 master’s and one doctorate.
  • Marquez presented quarterly financial reports for the periods ending September 30 and December 31, 2011, and the monthly financial report for December 2011. Tech remains within budgetary constraints.
  • The Board approved emeritus status for two physics researchers: Dr. Dan Klinglesmith and Dr. Robert Fugate.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech