Auburn University Board of Trustees approves budget, merit raises

Published: September 13, 2021
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Auburn University will be operating with its largest budget to date for fiscal year 2022.

The university’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 10 approved the $1.541 billion budget, a $56.9 million or 3.84% increase over fiscal year 2021, which included a 3% merit increase for employees.

Nearly 85% of the proposed budget, or $1,305.8 million, is for main campus, with $103.6 million for Auburn University at Montgomery, $67.6 million for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and $64 million for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

Kelli Shomaker, vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, said tuition and fees and state appropriations continue to be the university’s largest revenue sources, making up almost 67% of the total budget.

With a significant increase in state appropriations of $19.9 million, Auburn was able to hold tuition rates flat for fiscal year 2022. Even though the tuition rate did not increase an increase in enrollment created an additional $13.3 million in tuition and fee revenue. Additionally, Auburn has budgeted for a continued increase in grant and contract revenue of $14.1 million as it continues to advance research initiatives.

The largest increase in expenses is for personnel, which increased by $35.9 million, or 6.36%. The budget includes a 3% merit pool, as well as increases for job family and faculty promotions and new faculty and administrative positions—including $800,000 for cybersecurity roles. Auburn also budgeted for an additional $5.5 million in financial aid support for students, primarily need based.

The board also agreed to designate 16 acres of campus space for the creation of the College of Agriculture’s Transformation Garden.

The garden, which will be located between Lem Morrison Drive and Woodfield Drive, will serve as teaching and outreach space for the college. Students will be able to utilize the space to gain hands-on experience with the latest industry practices, and research faculty will be able to tackle key challenges. The garden can also be a production facility for Auburn’s Campus Dining program.

The Transformation Garden will be developed in numerous phases over the next several years. Facilities Management is now authorized to begin the architect selection process.

The board also accepted a plan to support the garden project. By extending Duncan Drive between Lem Morrison and Woodfield, the garden can be established along the east side of the new stretch of Duncan, connecting the Davis Arboretum to the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center.

The road expansion and infrastructure project calls for creating a two-lane campus road with bicycle lanes, sidewalks, street lighting, overhead power, storm sewer and domestic water lines. It also involves site grading, stormwater management and installation of utilities infrastructure to support the adjacent Transformation Garden.

A community greenway path, to be situated among the gardens, would also connect the arboretum and the performing arts center and allow for future connections to the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art and the City of Auburn’s Town Creek Park.

To facilitate an accelerated design process, Facilities Management recommended LBYD Engineers of Birmingham, Alabama, as the project engineer. The firm has designed several Auburn facilities and infrastructure projects and has worked on the initial planning efforts for this project.

As part of its procedures specified in the Name Removal and Contextualization Policy, the board agreed to add a memorial plaque to Wallace Hall as a way of contextualizing the university’s decision for maintaining the building name. The facility first opened in 1984, during Wallace’s fourth and final term as governor of Alabama.

Trustee Elizabeth Huntley, who co-chairs the Trustee Task Force with Trustee James Pratt, acknowledged Wallace’s political history as “complex,” and noted that he sought reconciliation for the past during his last term in office.

The four-member task force, which made the recommendation to the board, previously called for naming Auburn’s Student Center after Harold D. Melton, Auburn’s first African American Student Government Association president and then-chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Huntley added that the task force had also requested the area around the desegregation historical marker be enhanced. The marker tells the story of Harold Franklin. It is located near the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, where Franklin first registered for classes in 1964, becoming Auburn’s first African American student.

The university had planned on hosting an event with Franklin to celebrate the establishment of the new plaza that bears his name next to the marker. Unfortunately, Franklin died on Sept. 9. He was 88.

President Pro Tempore Bob Dumas opened the board meeting with the somber news and praised Franklin as a trailblazer.

Huntley said the event will go on as planned in November, with Franklin’s son in attendance.

This latest action is part of a larger initiative by Auburn to promote opportunity and equity. The

Trustee Task Force was assembled last summer to evaluate the history and context of named buildings and structures on university property.

In other matters, the board decided to:

  • Grant final approval to the Lowder Hall Financial Leadership Collaborative Laboratory renovation project, which will convert approximately 4,000 square feet of existing space in Lowder into two financial laboratories. The estimated cost of $3.5 million is to be financed by the Harbert College of Business. INOX Design of Marietta, Georgia, was previously selected at the project architect.

  • Cancel its plan to renovate the Ham Wilson Arena for a Facilities Management training center, and instead demolish the arena, initiate a project to construct a new training center within the Facilities Management complex and select JMR+H Architecture of Montgomery, Alabama, as the project architect.

  • Construct an addition to the College of Veterinary Medicine’s North Auburn Equine Research Facility. The current program operates out of temporary facilities, which no longer support future growth of the federally funded research program. The proposed project will provide modern facilities for research capabilities to match grant-funding opportunities. It is anticipated that the project would be financed by College of Veterinary Medicine funds.

  • Purchase 0.74 acres at 842 S. College St., the northwest corner of the intersection of South College Street and Woodfield Drive in Auburn. The action will allow the university to control one side of the intersection, permitting road widening, turn lanes and improved aesthetics at a major entrance point to campus.

  • Close the degree program for a Bachelor of Science in food science in the Department of Poultry Science in the College of Agriculture.

  • Establish the degree program for a Doctor of Physical Therapy in the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education.

  • Posthumously award a Bachelor of Science in aviation management to Kylie Nicole Murray, who passed away on July 31. A senior in aviation management, Murray was in good standing and would have graduated in December.

Provost Bill Hardgrave presented information to the board on the creation of new undergraduate certificates in financial planning, Department of Consumer and Design Sciences, College of Human Sciences; and speech, language and hearing sciences, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, College of Liberal Arts; as well as a new graduate certificate in global public service, Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts.

For the Athletics Department, the board elected to:

  • Commence the next phase of the Plainsman Park Player Development Center and start the architect selection process. Aimed at enhancing the fan experience, the project will include premium seating improvements above the new Player Development Center, as well as additional seating, new restrooms, concessions, a covered pavilion and a connection to the existing seating concourse. Athletics is expected to finance the project through bonds and gifts.

  • Initiate the project and start architect selection process to renovate the women’s basketball locker rooms in Auburn Arena. This project includes improvements to the team’s meeting areas, video review lab, team lounge, nutrition area, coaches’ locker room and restrooms. Athletics is expected to finance the project with bond funds.

  • Renovate the gymnastics and softball team areas within the McWhorter Center. The project will upgrade the current space to effectively support the development of student-athletes and allow these programs to compete nationally at the highest level. Athletics is anticipated to finance the project with bonds and gifts. 

For Auburn University at Montgomery, the board decided to:

  • Sell a 5.59-acre site on U.S. Hwy 331 that had previously been gifted to the university. Auburn hired a broker earlier this year to market and solicit offers for the property and received a subsequent offer.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.