MARSHALL - Southwest Minnesota State University interim president Ron Wood brought a heaping dose of good news to the campus at the open student budget presentation Thursday afternoon.
"It's a good budget," Wood said. "There's no cuts."
The one downside is that students are basically looking at a tuition increase, it's just a matter of whether or not it's embedded or in the form of a referendum. SMSU administrators are asking students to support a referendum designed to enhance the old Mattke Field site, including the renovation of the stadium and the infield surface.
"We're going to request that a referendum be on your ballot," Wood said. "We've had a choice over the last year or two to either demo the field or renovate it. We found we have a partner who wants to join with us in creating a huge stadium there for track and field."
That partner is the Marshall Public Schools, which is in need of a new track complex because of an aging and deteriorating surface on the existing track at Marshall Middle School.
"This was an opportunity for us to put cross country and track and field back into our inventory," Wood said. "What it helps us meet is our Title Nine requirement that we have. It appears, that across the United States, they're going to start looking at the Title Nine issues a lot more strongly over the next few years as compared to what has been done in the last decade."
The addition of track and field, and especially cross country, Wood said, would bring SMSU into full compliance, based on the assumption that it would cap the participation on the men's side and open it wide up on the women's side.
"What we're basically asking the students to do is to look at having a $12 per student per semester increase for one to four credits and $24 for students enrolled in five credits or more," Wood said. "The referendum would basically generate $110,000 for the institution annually."
Over a 10-year period, an approved referendum would generate approximately $1 million, covering the cost of the infield for the facility and minor renovations to the stadium. For its share, Marshall Public Schools would contribute between $1.2 million and $1.6 million, Wood said, depending on which track surface is put in. The goal is to have a synthetic surface if at all possible.
Wood also said that $450,000 has already been secured from what is called the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Reservation (HEAPR) fund.
"It's really an important concept of collaboration between the school district and the university," he said. "It allows our students to have more opportunities or amenities."
A number of the 20 people in attendance asked questions, including one in regards to whether a men's soccer team could be a possibility. Wood responded that it was a possibility, along with bringing back swimming and maybe even men's tennis. Security issues could generate some SMSU work study positions as well.
The biggest issue though is getting the women's participation numbers back up Wood said. Currently, SMSU has four men's athletic teams and six women's teams, but a sport like football involved more athletes than all of the women's teams combined.
Another student asked when the completion date is scheduled for. Though MPS would like to have the complex ready for the following spring season, Wood said that the work would not be completed until the summer of 2013.
When asked about the required electronic scoreboard needed for timed running events, Wood said that the six-digit cost would be covered through fundraising.
Wood believes it was a mistake to not have raised tuition in small increments the last 13 years. And, while the institution had the ability to raise tuition up to 5 percent, administrators chose to keep the amount below the median of universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU).
"If the revenue passes, it will be a 3.9 percent increase," Wood said. "If not, it will be 4.6 percent increase. It's basically a referendum versus putting in tuition. It's just that the referendum has an endpoint. I don't want to see it embedded indefinitely."
Kyle Berndt, SMSU Student Association president, said that referendum voting will be conducted from April 16-20.
"It'll be online voting, through their e-mail login," Berndt said. "It's open to everyone registered for classes this semester."
During the 2013 Fiscal Year budget presentation, Deb Kerkaert, SMSU vice president for finance and administration, reported a positive fund balance in the amount of $396, in part because of unexpected funding from MnSCU.
"We're going to get an increase this year, which is a pleasant surprise," Kerkaert said. "It's an extra $127,000."
Kerkaert explained that the funding is based on a formula that MnSCU uses annually.
"The formula is somewhat enrollment-driven, but not entirely," she said. "We just came out better this year."
With the impending change in allocation, SMSU stands to garner a total of $12,569,518 in revenue from MnSCU. The projected revenue total for the university is $34,654,862.
SMSU senior Joe Guzman said the proposed budget was the best one he's seen in four years.
"I'm thrilled where the school is going," Guzman said. "It's just too bad I'm leaving now."
Kerkaert said that SMSU administrators were required to meet with every union on campus and to meet and consult with students before submitting the budget next week.
In May, the MnSCU board will get its first chance to view the SMSU budget proposal.
"The first one in May is called the first reading," Kerkaert said. "They have to look at it twice. They'll vote in June, so we'll know about mid-June whether it is approved."