Pandemic will save UO $16M – what will JH spend it on?

More precisely, the Oregon Treasurer’s efforts to take advantage of the pandemic-induced fall in interest rates by refinancing university debt will save UO $16M over the next 3 years.

Press release here. The state will save a bunch because they pay for bonds for academic buildings. I think that the university savings, below, are mostly for debt incurred by the universities for dorms and athletics. UO would have saved far more, but, according to what I was told by the former UO Treasurer, whoever wrote the $235M in Knight Arena bonds neglected to include the standard clause making them recallable after 10 years. Meaning we are stuck paying 4% or whatever on them for another 20 years – like a mortgage you’re not allowed to refinance.

Show up Th at 8AM! UO Board and committee meeting agendas and links for Wed-Fri

12/10/14 PM update:

I encourage faculty to show up at the full Board meeting, 8 AM Thursday, to support the guest speakers supporting faculty governance. I’ll do my best to live-blog it.

12/10/2014: Some erratic live-blog reports below, in the committee agendas. It’s rough, I’ll try and clean it up later.

Highlights from the 12/10/2014 committee meetings:

– Helena Schlegel has been confirmed by the state Senate as new UO student Board Trustee.

– UO’s financial position is still strong, independent auditor gives “clean audit”.

– ASUO and Lamar Wise get the board to amend tuition and fee setting policy.

– Board abandons the Triplett / Park scheme to supersede the UO Constitution and faculty governance – at least for now.

– Board Chair Chuck Lillis presents draft plan for how the board can take pro-active steps help improve UO’s academic excellence- including improvements in administrative efficiency, fundraising, etc.

– Board moves forward on the Sports Product MS program. As much as it pains me to say it, this program probably makes sense for UO. Of course Jim Bean, our former provost and new $250K Sports Product program head, skipped the meeting. Having heard Bean talk many times, I can say that this was probably also a good idea. Two minutes of Bean would have killed its chances forever.

12/9/2014:  Some highlights from the committee meeting agendas for Wednesday, and the Board meetings for Thursday-Friday:

– In the committees, starting 10AM Wednesday: A new Duck sports marketing deal, audited financial statements, Jim Bean’s sports product design sinecure, and Coltrane’s presentation on how he’s replacing Senate committees with his own “Administrative Advisory Groups”.

– In the full Board meeting, starting 8AM Thursday: Public comment on the Lillis motion to replace the UO Constitution and the UO Senate’s role in faculty governance with top-down control by the UO Board and its UO President, followed by a vote by the board. Update: The faculty has now been promised that this motion is off the agenda.

The committee meetings are all in room 403 of the Ford Center, and the full Board meeting is in the first floor ballroom. The list of UO Board Trustees is here. It will be interesting to see if Chuck Triplett uses the support staff tables to form a defensive wall between the university community and the board members, as last time.

The “Agenda” links below go to the docket material. However these dockets are not completely trustworthy. At the last meeting Board Secretary Angela Wilhelms did not post the most interesting parts of the dockets, e.g. Chuck Lillis’s power grab on presidential hiring authority. Even the board members didn’t get that until just before they were forced to vote. This secrecy led to confusion and embarrassment for the UO Board, as noted in this InsideHigherEd report by Ry Rivard.

This time I notice that the audited financial statements and the auditor’s report are not posted. The docket says they’ll be distributed at the meeting as hard copies, so no one has a chance to read them in advance and ask tough questions. I’m no CPA, but an auditor might say that this sort of lack of transparency “raises a potential matter of concern”.

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UO hires Karen Levear from OUS to deal with bond sales

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Karen Levear will be joining the University of Oregon as our first Director of Treasury Operations. Karen brings with her a great deal of experience gleaned through her years in commercial banks and as the Director of Treasury Operations for the Oregon University System. Her first day on campus will be Tuesday, February 4, 2014.

Karen mentioned the great experience she had with her on-site interview, and the positive vibes she got from those with whom she met. My most sincere thanks go to all of you who were involved with this important search and hire process.


Kelly B. Wolf
Director of Business Affairs and Controller
University of Oregon

Faculty out of the loop on new UO borrowing

10/14/13 update: Gottfredson is now hiring a full time “Director of Treasury Operations” to deal with the upcoming bond sales that he hasn’t told the faculty anything about:

The University of Oregon Business Affairs Office (BAO) invites applicants for a full-time Director of Treasury Operations. This position is a fixed-term appointment for one year with annual renewals. This recruitment is open to any applicant who meets the qualifications listed below.

The University of Oregon (UO) has recently been granted legislative authority to establish its own governing board and manage its own treasury functions. We are looking for an experienced and dynamic leader to guide the institution in assuming management of the university’s cash and debt portfolio, establish an institution-wide Internal Bank, and collaborate with the new governing board to develop and implement new policies related to debt and investment management.

10/12/13 update: It turns out the football team’s ranking doesn’t matter to Moody’s.

The Oregon Treasury Department just sent me a copy of the July 2012 report from the PRM consultants on the consequences of UO independence for OUS, and the likely bond ratings for UO and PSU when separated from OUS. Full report here. A concise summary:

The cocktail party version is that PFM forecasts a respectable but not excellent Moody’s rating of Aa2 or Aa3. A rather remarkable third of our outstanding bonds are for Mac Court, (before the EMU and Straub) but it’s not clear how much of a hit that made to the rating forecast.

I’m still waiting to get the docs on the meeting with Goldman Sachs, which Gottfredson and Moffitt hid from the faculty during the union negotiations, and which yielded more promising results, or at least that’s the rumor.

9/14/2013: Would you buy a used car from this man?

If the dealer showed you an odometer reading and repair records like this, you’d give him the wave, and say no thanks:

But that’s about all VPFA Jamie Moffitt will show the UO faculty, and it’s the basis on which President Gottfredson expects us to trust his administration when it comes to UO’s finances. Pretty disrespectful, and un-civil.

SB 270 gives the new UO Board the power to issue its own bonds. The investment bankers aren’t going to sell them without seeing some credible data and forecasts. Why shouldn’t the faculty be able to see that same information? And why would President Gottfredson think that his faculty union should cut a deal with him without first seeing the same information his finance people are showing Goldman Sachs?

So here’s a public records request to Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, asking to see what information UO has shared with his office and the bond rating agencies:

Dear Treasurer Wheeler:

This is a public records request for documents related to discussions between the Oregon Treasury Department, UO administrators, and bond rating or lending firms regarding the potential sale of bonds by UO, or by other state agencies for UO and UO’s bond rating.

Specifically, I am asking for any documents shared with your office or these firms showing UO’s financial situation, including;

a) current data and projections of enrollment, tuition, state funding, grant revenue, athletics revenue, licensing revenue, donations, and other significant revenue streams.

b) current data and projections of cost items such as salary, benefits, facilities services, athletics, etc;

c) discussions and analyses of potential upside and downside risk for UO involving changes in revenue or costs or potential legal liabilities.

d) data on current UO debt and assets and analyses of the impact of the recent changes in higher education on debt and assets.

e) reports from bond rating firms and investment banks analyzing these data and or providing advice to the Treasury Department, UO, OUS, OIEB and or HECC on bond ratings and projections and estimates of borrowing capacity

For universities, the bond rating agencies such as Moody’s and S&P look pretty carefully at these factors, and the consequences of holding back information are substantial. Here are a few examples of their reports, from universities that practice transparency:

9/13/2013 update: The most recent Oregon Higher Ed bond sale was rated Aa1, the second highest rating after AAA. UO’s financial reserves are the highest in the system. UO’s enrollment, tuition, and student quality are all growing too, and SB 270 will soon give UO the ability to issue its own bonds. I’m thinking UO’s well will be able to handle quite a bit more flow than what Rudnick and Moffitt have been telling the faculty.

9/11/2013: Maybe President Gottfredson’s chief negotiator Sharon Rudnick wasn’t kidding when she told the UO faculty on Tuesday that

“The well is dry. Hear me please. The well is dry.”

Or maybe there’s a very different explanation for the 8/27/2013 meeting between the UO administration, Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and representatives of Wall Street’s respected Goldman Sachs financiers?

The UO Matters surveillance cameras capture some interesting stuff in the Johnson Hall lot. I’ll make a public records request for the details on the meeting. Hubin’s office won’t release anything until the union negotiations are over, but Wheeler faces some different incentives.

Do the math, President Gottfredson, and replace PLC

9/15/2013: As one of his last official acts as president, Frohnmayer signed a secret MOU with AD Pat Kilkenny, promising that the academic side would start paying the jocks $300K a year for the right to use the Presidential Skybox at Autzen, and another $468K a year to help with the Matt Court Arena land bonds.

Current 30 year Muni rates are about 4.5%, so redirecting those $64,000 a month payments to the academic side would finance a $12.6M dollar academic building. Take the ~$2M a year we’re paying to run the Jock Box back from the jocks, and you’re talking about a $46M building. Enough to replace PLC?