WFU trustees defer action on child care center, deck; university to review other alternatives

The Wake Forest University Board of Trustees has deferred action on plans for a child care center and a parking deck on the university’s Reynolda Campus, prompting the university to review other alternatives.

Wake Forest President Thomas K. Hearn Jr. announced the board’s response to the projects in a letter sent this week to the university’s Reynolda Campus faculty and staff. In that same letter, the president discussed three immediate benefits upgrades for the Reynolda Campus, which have gone to the University Senate Fringe Benefits Committee for review and comment.

“The decision to proceed cautiously (on the center and deck) has been influenced by new information regarding health insurance premiums,” Hearn wrote. “Another concern lies in changes that are occurring nationwide in financial aid. These external factors pose real and serious challenges for us.”

The board of trustees reviewed plans for the child care center and parking deck at its October meeting.

The estimated cost for the center’s construction is $5 million, and for the parking deck, $5.5 million.

Addressing the insurance premiums, Hearn wrote that “the Reynolda Campus has been notified by QualChoice to expect annual premiums for health insurance to rise by at least 15 percent this coming year (July 2001-June 2002), with similar increases for the foreseeable future.” Wake Forest pays roughly 60 percent of Reynolda Campus employees’ insurance premiums, which means the projected premium increases will cost the university about $550,000 in the next fiscal year and about $600,000 in 2002-2003.

“The Trustees have insisted that priority be given to our essential benefit-health care insurance-as priority last year was assigned to salary,” Hearn wrote in the letter.

Also affecting university revenue are changes in the financial aid methodology used by national “cross-admit” institutions (colleges and universities that compete with Wake Forest for students) to compute the amount of aid available to needy undergraduates. The change allows more need to be assessed for middle-income families, in particular. The result is that the university will need at least $600,000 more next year for need-based awards.

The president also observed that stock market instability is expected to have an impact on the university’s endowment, which has grown at double-digit rates in recent times. Hearn noted that “we cannot expect past levels of growth to continue.”

That same instability requires the university to be “diligent to protect the salary opportunity fund” created by the university in the last fiscal year to lift faculty and staff salaries on the Reynolda Campus, according to Hearn. The fund, a specially managed portion of the endowment, has supported the university’s plan to raise salaries.

In Hearn’s letter, he described three benefits upgrades for the Reynolda Campus. They include a six-week paid maternity leave policy for staff; an increase in the amount of pre-tax dollars that employees may contribute to a medical flexible spending account; and a change in the definition of an employee’s long-term disability so that employees receive help when unable to do their job, rather than when totally disabled. The University Senate Fringe Benefits Committee has already endorsed the maternity leave and spending account upgrades.

In addition, the university has retained a consultant to evaluate the overall benefits package on the Reynolda Campus.

Categories: University Announcement