Multipurpose center to draw more from General Fee than publicized

Despite early university assurances to the contrary, students’ General Fee money will be used to pay for much more of Ohio University’s multipurpose center than originally planned.

During a meeting between Student Senate executives and top OU administrators in May or June of 2012, it was agreed that General Fee money would help to pay for a loan taken out to finance the $12.5 million building — well beyond what was publicly stated that the General Fee money would be used for.

This meeting came after a May 2012 statement from Ohio Athletics that the use of student General Fee money to finance the multipurpose center was “highly unlikely,” according to a previous Post article.

Now, $822,000 of General Fee money per year will be used for 10 years to pay for more than the facility’s annual maintenance costs of $250,000 and approximately $1.5 million track, Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi and Student Senate President Zach George said.

“In 10 years, when that loan’s paid off, that money in the General Fee will be there for other uses,” Lombardi said.

Stephen Golding, vice president for Finance and Administration, said that in addition to the projected maintenance costs, students will also pay $572,000 annually to cover the debt services necessary to undertake the project on its current timetable, which has construction beginning in April and the center opening in December.

Despite more than $3 million in funds pledged by donors in Ohio Athletics’ initial multipurpose center fundraising campaign and a lead gift of $8 million, the only way the multipurpose center could be financed now was to take on the debt service — a proposition Golding presented to Student Senate executives.

“We went through the options and made the recommendation that the only way that we could do the multipurpose center today, as compared to wait until the funds were in, was to use the surplus General Fee and debt service to pay for the ongoing operations,” Golding said.

The lead gift, $8 million of a $10 million package pledged to OU by Robert and Margaret Walter, will come in at $1 million per year for the first five years, while the remaining $5 million will be paid “at year 10 or potentially earlier,” based on a decision the Walters have yet to make regarding their trust account, Golding said.

The decision will be made in the spring or summer on how to use the gifts pledged to Athletics — as direct funds or debt payments.
Kyle Triplett, former Student Senate president, and Chris Wimsatt, former senate treasurer, created the plan this past year to use General Fee money to pay for more than the track and maintenance costs.

“I don’t think Kyle felt the need to take it upon himself to put it into a (senate) resolution,” Senate President Zach George said. “Hindsight is 20/20, (and) unfortunately, that was not the case.”

Triplett did not respond to repeated request for comment.

George, Triplett and Wimsatt sat on the General Fee Advisory Committee this past year and helped come up with the plan.

Roger Jones, former senate vice president; Amrit Saini, current senate vice president; and Evan Ecos, current senate treasurer, were also in the meeting that focused on increasing General Fee allocation to the multipurpose center with Golding, Lombardi and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit in the late spring.

George said there was a consensus in the meeting that additional General Fee dollars should be allocated to the facility, adding that everyone present knew how the money was being used.

However, Jones, Saini and Ecos have all independently said they were not aware General Fee dollars will be paying for more than a track and maintenance costs.

“My interpretation was (the $822,000) was being used for building upkeep,” Ecos said. “However, I have not sat in on any other meeting with regards to the project. Triplett was the lead student representative in those meetings.”
George said that though he was aware of and agreed to this plan, he did not take the lead in implementing it.

The multipurpose center received its funding based on a General Fee surplus created this academic year because of the redistribution of funds previously utilized by Campus Care.

Until this year, the Division of Student Affairs paid $1.2 million annually for Campus Care. However, this academic year, Student Affairs subsidized the health center $400,000, as it is now part of the OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Lombardi said.

“As we were coming into this academic year, I was sitting down with (Benoit) and (Golding), and they were saying, ‘OK, you only have to pay $400,000 to the College of Medicine next year to run Campus Care’ … so there’s going to be money left over in the General Fee,” Lombardi said.

Wimsatt said that though the information has been readily available, OU’s administrators should have made an effort to circulate the information.

“If OU didn’t advertise the fact this money was being used for that, I can’t blame them,” he said. “But if they offered up the information when asked, I think that’s what matters.”

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