Budget surplus provides for needed repairs

Over the past two fiscal years, Simpson has had a surplus of nearly $1.5 million to put toward a multitude of renovations across campus.

Each year, Simpson sets aside undesignated money, known as a contingency fund, in the operating budget to have on hand in case of an emergency.

When that money isn’t needed, the surplus is used to make repairs to buildings on campus.

“We renovated Washington and Colonial Apartments, completely rebuilt the tennis courts, redid the lighting and ceiling in Dunn Library and we put fire sprinklers in [the] Kappa Kappa Gamma and Lambda Chi Alpha [houses]” said Ken Birkenholtz, vice president of business and finance.

In addition, new doors and skylights were added in the BSC, new doors were installed on the west side of Cowles, a new heat pump was purchased for McNeill Hall and the heating tubes for the central boiler were replaced.

A contingency fund is required in the operating budget, because it is impossible for the school to anticipate what unexpected needs may arise.

“While some repair expenses can be foreseen and, therefore, planned for in the budget, other repair expenses arise unexpectedly,” John Benoit, associate professor of music and faculty chair of the Budget and Coordinating Committee said. “The college must have some contingency funds on hand to meet this unanticipated expense. Otherwise, the college finds itself raiding already established budget lines for the needed funds.”

When this happens, other departments and offices find their budgets cut.

Birkenholtz said that the school typically allocates about $500,000 to the contingency fund.

In addition to unanticipated repairs, the school must also prepare for lower-than-expected enrollment, which would result in fewer tuition dollars.

“We’ve tried to grow that line a little bit to help us support any surprises, primarily enrollment shortfalls. If we would come into the fall and be significantly short of where we thought we’d be in enrollment, that would play a huge impact on our budget.

If that money has still gone unused at the end of the year, it is put toward renovations on campus facilities.

In the last two fiscal years, Simpson has come out with large surpluses, and therefore been able to put that money towards a variety of projects.

According to Birkenholtz, the school’s surplus from the 2007 fiscal year that was available for such renovations totaled nearly $1 million dollars.

“That was one of our best years ever,” Birkenholtz said. “It was certainly the best year in the 14 years I’ve been working here. “

He said several factors played into the large sum.

“We had a couple of vacancies that didn’t get filled,” he said. “Financial aid came in less than expected, and we had a pretty good spring retention in terms of enrollment. It was a variety of factors that all came together that gave us a better than expected return that year.”

Benoit said the large surpluses indicate the school’s ability to budget its money wisely.

“If the college manages to finish a year with funds remaining in its contingency account, that indicates that the college did a very good job of anticipating its budgetary needs for the year and staying within its budget,” Benoit said.

This allows Simpson to pay for repairs without taking out loans or drawing money from other places.

While making such repairs, the school has also focused on improving the college’s environmental efficiency.

“[We are planning on] changing over Cowles’ lighting, updating [all buildings] to low flow toilets, and putting in occupancy sensors for the thermostats in rooms” said Jeremy Huffman, director of campus services.

The goal to make the buildings on campus more environmentally friendly has economic incentives too.

“It’s a great time to do sustainable projects though,” Huffman said. “It isn’t just for the environment, but it’s also financially sustainable.”

Huffman said that the new toilets will completely pay for themselves in about three and a half years.

“The average student who is here for four years will see that [money],” said Huffman.