Wright State was warned a year ago that more cuts were needed

Published: Sunday, April 15, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Students on campus at Wright State University.
Students on campus at Wright State University.

Wright State University’s interim president saw the school’s recently-announced $10-million problem coming last June.

Last summer Curtis McCray, in the midst of serving a brief three-month stint as interim leader of the school, announced that Wright State’s financial problems were “a little deeper” than the $30.8 million trustees cut out of the school’s 2017 budget. Instead, McCray recommended trustees slash $40 million from Wright State’s budget.

A year later, the current university administration has found that McCray’s predictions have come true.

Wright State president Cheryl Schrader this week asked university departments to slash 66 percent of their remaining budgets for fiscal year 2018 - which ends June 30 - in a last-ditch effort to keep the school off of state fiscal watch. Around $6 million of the $10 million WSU is trying to cut within the next 11 weeks would be put in the college’s reserve fund. But chief business officer Walt Branson said that at this point such efforts are unlikely to raise enough money for the school’s reserves in time.

RELATED: Wright State apologizes after graduation ticket limit sparks online outrage

“I’m not surprised. It was a guess on my part but I was fairly positive,” McCray said when contacted by phone Thursday. “(Wright State is) a good place and it ought to do better…I’ve never seen an institution go from a reserve of over $100 million to nothing.”

Wright State’s depleted reserves are one of the main reasons the university could land on fiscal watch.

WSU’s total reserves plummeted from $162 million in 2012 to a projected $31 million in 2017, which amounts to a $131 million decline over five years, according to the school’s budget.

The state measures every public college’s fiscal health with something called a “Senate Bill 6 score,” an annual rating of 0 to 5. Half the score is based on the school’s reserve fund, essentially how much cash the school has in the bank. The other two factors include a viability score which calculates the university’s ability to service its debts and an income ratio which measures the school’s change in net assets, according to the FY 2018 WSU budget.

Any school that falls below a 1.75 two years in a row is put on notice. Wright State projected its score last year was a .8, meaning one more year below a 1.75 would put the school on fiscal watch. As recently as January, administrators were projecting a score of 2.2 for the current fiscal year.

Under fiscal watch status, WSU trustees and administration will have to adopt a financial recovery plan with an eye toward ending the status of fiscal watch within three years, according to state law. They would be required to produce forecasts and plans for getting the school’s finances back on track, and if the administration did not do this the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education could appoint someone to make those decisions for the university.

By June 30, Wright State will have a projection of whether the school will enter fiscal watch. But, the state likely wouldn’t decide whether to place the school under added scrutiny until the end of 2018, said David Cummnis, finance director of the Ohio department of Higher Education.

“I think the next three months are going to be the tightest belt tightening,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board’s finance committee. “If we miss fiscal watch by one dollar then shame on us.”

Enrollment and other issues

Wright State, said Cummins, is “right on the border” of entering fiscal watch. A big reason for that is the university’s enrollment.

Wright State’s enrollment this year was projected to hit its lowest point in a decade. Tuition is the school’s biggest source of revenue so fewer students translates to less money.

A steep decline in international students over the last two years resulted in a decline of $15 million in net tuition revenue, Wright State estimates.

RELATED: Wright State leader: ‘We have got to cut it out if we want to save this university’

Enrollment issues also arose last fall when the mix of in-state versus out-of-state students did not come in as expected. The university had more in-state students enroll than expected and fewer out-of-state students, board chairman Doug Fecher said last fall.

Non-Ohio residents pay more for tuition so the issue resulted in tuition coming in $4.7 million under projections. Ohio residents will pay $10,814 and out-of-state student pay $21,032, according to Wright State.

Unbudgeted scholarship and fellowship expenses cost the school around $3.5 million last fall. More recently health insurance claims have been a strain on Wright State’s budget.

Around $6 million in unexpected health care costs occurred this spring for employees or their families who are covered by the university’s health care plan. Claims have increased or decreased by as much as $500,000 in a single week, according to the university. Both Branson and Fitzpatrick have said the large claims may be from employees or their family members who had major medical problems this year or are about to retire or leave the university.

“The medical insurance was a big wild card that got thrown in,” Branson said in February.

‘Moving target’

The budget problems have forced trustees to look at operational details that boards of trustees typically leave to administrations to decide.

Trustees are regularly having discussions about everything from what jobs should be filled and to how high Wright State’s catering budget should be.

“They’re in an interesting situation…It’s really forcing them to get to the level of detail to see where they’re at,” Cummins said. “This one’s a little unique because they’re shooting at a moving target. That’s the challenge for them.”

Along with Fecher and Fitzgerald, Wright State’s trustees are Anuj Goyal, Grace Ramos, Michael Bridges, Bill Montgomery, Stephanie Green, C.D. Moore, Bruce Langos and two non-voting student members.

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On Wednesday, trustees learned that some austerity measures McCray put in place — when he was there from March to June last year — were not kept in place after he left, including paid travel. After trustees complained on Wednesday, Schrader emailed the campus on Thursday to re-institute several austerity measures.

She again banned overnight travel unless it is paid for by a third party, prohibited catering again and lowered limits on purchasing cards for university employees to $250 per purchase and $500 per month.

“We understand that this requires great sacrifice and presents challenges for your daily work, but we must come together in the short term to preserve Wright State University’s exceptional educational programs and community leadership for generations to come,” Schrader said in the email.

‘Some of them…are a joke’

At times the university has left positions vacant or used temporary hiring freezes to save money.

Over the last two years, Wright State administrators and trustees have said they would not fill positions unless they were critical to the school’s operation and mission. They have also said that positions shouldn’t be filled if they are not pertinent to the safety and well being of students.

During a board meeting this week, trustees questioned jobs currently posted on the university’s website and trustee Bruce Langos said that “some of them, as you go down the list, are a joke.”

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Listed on the school’s website are research-related jobs and dozens of faculty positions including adjunct positions, assistant professors and instructor jobs. There is also a position for an events and social media coordinator for Wright State Research Institute, an assistant women’s volleyball coach, an assistant general counsel job and a men’s basketball administrative assistant, among others.

Wright State’s hiring process follows a few different tracks, said spokesman Bob Mihalek.

Grant-funded positions are still being filled since compensation for those jobs does not come out of the school’s budget. Approval to post university-funded jobs comes when a position meets the conditions for “emergency hiring” or “strategic hiring,” which include security and compliance needs, Mihalek said.

The posting for an administrative assistant for basketball was approved to be posted last November, but “upon further review, athletics was asked to delay hiring and re-evaluate options,” Mihalek said via email.

In Wednesday’s meeting Schrader said that her administration is “focused on accountability” and on “doing everything we can to reduce any expenditures that are not critical.”

The next budget

Wright State administrators have already started planning for next year.

This week they released details of an early fiscal year 2019 budget and the plan didn’t bode well for the university.

Another enrollment decline could lead to around a $12 million decline in tuition revenue, far more than the $3.5 million administrators projected in January.

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With more enrollment misfortune on the horizon, Wright State will have to spend even less money next year.

Overall, the university is planning more than $23 million in spending reductions during the next fiscal year, the preliminary budget shows. In June trustees will get more details on the school’s next budget, something Schrader and her team are charged with planning.

McCray said he still does some consulting work for colleges but “nothing like what I did as interim president.” He’s not sure what Wright State’s leaders will do to finish what he started but he’s sure one thing is in the school’s future.

“I think they’ll probably do the only things there are to do: Cuts.”

WSU total reserves

2012: $162 million

2013: $140 million

2014: $135 million

2015: $109 million

2016: $64 million

2017: $31 million*

*Projection from FY 2018 budget.

WSU budget crisis timeline

July 2016: WSU withdraws from presidential debate, citing mounting costs.

October 2016: WSU eliminates 23 positions.

March 2017: WSU president resigns, citing budget concerns.

March 2017: Interim WSU president says programs and sports teams could be cut.

June 2017: WSU trustees approve $30.8 million in cuts, decides to keep swimming team for another year.

July: 2017: Cheryl Schrader takes over as president.

October 2017: WSU announces it will cut swimming and diving teams.

January 2018: WSU administrators say they may avoid state fiscal watch.

March 2018: WSU asks departments to slash remaining budgets by combined total of $10 million.

April 2018: WSU trustee says school is “on a trajectory” toward fiscal watch.

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Statehouse candidates answer voter questions in Montgomery County

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:48 PM

Ohio House candidates debate

Four primary election state lawmaker candidates took questions during a forum of panelists from WHIO Radio and Dayton Daily News and offered south Montgomery County voters a chance to talk with candidates in Miamisburg on Monday. 

>> Voter Guide

Three Republicans and one Democrat weighed in on key issues ahead of the May primary, according to News Center 7 Reporter Sean Cudahy.

Democrat candidate Zach Dickerson called for bipartisanship. His primary opponent, Autumn Kern, was not at the forum.

The Republican candidates discussed taxes, Medicaid and schools. All of the candidates answered questions regarding gun control.

“We’ve made their jobs difficult enough by giving them so many restrictions,” Republican candidate Sarah Clark said.

“There are smarter, better ways to make our schools safer,” Dickerson said.

“I do not believe that students should be armed...in any capacity,” Republican candidate Marcus Rech said.

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“Right now, it’s up to each community and that’s how I think it should be,” State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said.

The forum was organized by the Dayton League of Women Voters who said they think it’s important for people to know where the candidates stand.

The primary election is set for May 8. 

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South Dayton suburban state House race one to watch on Election Day

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 6:53 PM

Ohio House candidates Niraj Antani, Sarah Clark, Marcus Rech and Zach Dickerson.
Ohio House candidates Niraj Antani, Sarah Clark, Marcus Rech and Zach Dickerson.

If you can measure the popularity of a job by the number of people seeking it, the race for the Ohio House 42 district in southern Montgomery County is the region’s winner.

Five people — three Republicans and two Democrats — are on the May 8 ballot for a seat in a district that has long been a Republican stronghold. About 62 percent of the district is Republican, according to the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association’s 2016 Election Guide.

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Democratic candidates on the issues

VOTERS GUIDE: Compare the Republican candidates on the issues

Here is a look at the candidates:

Democrats

Two candidates, Zach Dickerson and Autumn J. Kern, both of Miamisburg, are running for the Democratic nomination. Kern did not respond to any requests for comment or complete a Dayton Daily News Voter Guide.

Dickerson describes himself as a moderate Democrat who wants to focus on “kitchen table” issues such as fixing potholes, improving schools, funding first responders, battling the drug crisis and bringing good jobs and investment to the district.

Zach Dickerson of Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

He supports establishing a new microloan program for small businesses, restoring the local government fund and improving school funding so districts do not have to go on the ballot for property taxes so often. He’s not sure where he would find the money for those measures but said a review is needed to determine whether state tax cuts have been effective in stimulating the economy.

RELATED: Democratic leader says state tax cuts lead to higher local taxes

He supports the state’s expansion of Medicaid, which provides heath insurance to 685,000 Ohioans who were previously ineligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. He said that expansion is crucial not only for helping people get preventative care but also in getting treatment for drug addiction.

He said he wants to work on bipartisan legislation to help the district.

“I feel like I will be an advocate for civility,” Dickerson said. “I want a functioning government run by reasonable people. I don’t think we have that right now.”

On other issues, Dickerson said he supports Republican proposed limits on pay day loans and reducing hours for cosmetology licenses. But he said Republican efforts to cut access to safe, legal abortions are wrong-headed and sometimes do not pass constitutional muster.

He did say he would support “reasonable restrictions” such as banning late-term abortions, according to his Voter Guide answers.

Dickerson grew up hunting and said there needs to be a balance between Second Amendment rights and protecting the public. He said assault-style weapons should be banned and he supports “red-flag” legislation that would keep people from having weapons if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

Republicans:

Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination: State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg; Miamisburg Vice Mayor Sarah M. Clark and political newcomer Marcus Rech.

Niraj Antani

Antani is seeking re-election to the seat he has held since 2014.

He said he has been a strong voice for conservative values in the Statehouse and has voted to cut taxes, for stronger abortion restrictions and for capping college tuition increases.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

“As I’m in office longer I have more ability to deliver on legislation,” Antani said.

RELATED: Antani, anti-abortion group urge court to act against Kettering clinic

Antani wants to eliminate the state income tax and says he would oppose raising taxes. At the same time he advocates providing more support to community colleges for workforce development, increasing funding for law enforcement and restoring funding to local governments so they can fix roads and bridges instead of relying on the state to do it.

He also wants to have a drug dog inspecting every Fed Ex and U.S. mail piece in the state in an effort to stop the mailing of drugs. Antani said he doesn’t know what that would cost but it “would be very expensive.”

Doing without the state’s income tax revenue — which totaled $8 billion in 2017 — would be a tall order. Although he didn’t have a firm plan for reducing state revenues by that amount while still increasing funding for measures he supports, Antani said lawmakers would have to set priorities. He also advocated using $1 billion of the state’s rainy day fund for law enforcement to help fight the opioid epidemic.

Antani said he wants to reduce the number of people on Medicaid by providing work training and job coaches for able-bodied, childless adults.

Antani would eliminate the state-mandated minimum wage, which is currently governed by a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2006 that requires that it rise with inflation.

“The market should dictate wages,” Antani said.

He wants to freeze any changes in kindergarten through 12 education for five years and study best practices during the period, he said.

Antani is a strong supporter of restricting abortion rights and of loosening restrictions on guns. He said will support any anti-abortion legislation, including requiring that schools teach the controversial concept that a fetus feels pain at 18-20 weeks, something many scientists say is not true based on the neurological development of a fetus, according to Factcheck.org.

Earlier this year he advocated that 18-year-olds be allowed to carry long guns to high school, a position that was criticized by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats. He said he is no longer commenting on the subject.

RELATED: Ohio lawmaker: ‘Did a poor job of communicating’ position on students bearing firearms

Sarah M. Clark

The Miamisburg councilwoman said her opposition to Antani’s representation of the district is what put her in the race. She said she has more real world experience than he does and believes she would do a better job in the Statehouse.

Clark said she supports the Second Amendment but Antani’s idea that students could bring guns to school is wrong-headed and dangerous.

Sarah M. Clark, Miamisburg Vice Mayor(Staff Writer)

“I think it certainly highlighted his immaturity and inexperience,” Clark said, arguing that highly-trained armed security guards are a better option.

Clark wants to eliminate the Medicaid expansion, which she said costs taxpayers too much and hurts the people who are on Medicaid because she says they can’t find doctors who will take Medicaid.

RELATED: Kasich vs. lawmakers in Medicaid fight: ‘If you break it, you own it’

She said health care wouldn’t be so expensive if the state passed a health care cost transparency plan that would make pricing more competitive.

She does credit Medicaid with covering drug treatment for addiction. She said too many legislators focus on punishing addicts but she wants to instead have the state get people 18 months of treatment and imprison all drug dealers who sell opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Clark said she wants to get rid of government regulations that have hurt job creation, though she couldn’t name one that she would put on the chopping block. 

She also wants to cut taxes if possible and said tax breaks have enabled Miamisburg to attract companies to the city.

RELATED: Three-term councilwoman elected new vice mayor of Miamisburg

Clark opposes “abortion in all circumstances,” according to her Voter Guide answers. She said abortion opponents should extend their “pro-life” view to making sure people are “supported and cared for” after they are born as well. She said she’d like to see churches and other community groups take over more of the job of helping people with addiction, health care and foster care.

Marcus Rech

Rech said he is running because he believes Antani is too divisive. He also said he opposes Antani’s idea of teenagers bringing guns to school.

“You can’t have 18 year olds walking around with loaded long rifles in schools,” Rech said. “It was a big blow to Second Amendment supporters. It made us look stupid.”

Rech said a better plan for school safety would be more use of metal detectors, hiring more security and training school staff as backups.

RELATED: Who is running?: 18 local state House and Senate on ballot this year

Rech wants to repeal the expansion of Medicaid health insurance and said people who lose their insurance should negotiate their own prices with doctors under the Direct Primary Care model. He supports more transparency in health care pricing as well.

“I just want people to have choices,” Rech said.

Marcus Rech of Miamisburg(Staff Writer)

He believes government subsidies for medical care are what has driven up prices.

A big theme for Rech is that Americans need to be the ones getting jobs. He said schools should upgrade the core curriculum and the state needs to give teachers more freedom. He also said there needs to be more vocational training because not everyone is cut out for college.

“I’d like to see a cheaper version of education,” Rech said. “I’d like to see it more streamlined.”

He opposes the use of special visas and green cards to hire non-Americans by universities, contractors and government.

“I think we should talk to these companies and if we need to maybe we can do some taxation to discourage it,” said Rech.

Ohio House of Representatives 42nd District

Term: 2 years

Pay: $60,584 annually

District: Moraine, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Germantown and part of Centerville, and Washington, Miami and German townships.

---

More information on the candidates

Zach Dickerson

Age: 38

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Law degree from University of Denver and bachelor of fine arts from Texas State University

Employment: Market research manager at Lexis-Nexis

Political experience: None

Political party: Democrat

Autumn J. Kern

Address: Miamisburg

Political party: Democrat

Kern did not respond to requests for further information

---

Niraj Antani

Age: 27

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio State University

Employment: State representative

Political experience: State representative since 2014

Political party: Republican

---

Sarah M. Clark

Age: 35

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Trevveca Nazarene University

Employment: Business manager at Midwest Dental and Miamisburg vice mayor

Political experience: Mimaisburg council member since 2010

Political party: Republican

---

Marcus Rech

Age: 28

Address: Miamisburg

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management from Thomas Edison State University

Employment: R &R Painting and Flooring

Political experience: None

Political party: Republican

 

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Cam Newton surprises Special Olympics athletes with shopping spree

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 11:21 PM

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 31:  Cam Newton (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 31: Cam Newton (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surprised 20 children from Special Olympics North Carolina at a surprise shopping event at a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Barclay Downs, North Carolina, on Monday afternoon.

>> Read more trending news

Each child got a $200 gift card and spent time shopping with Newton, who served as a personal shopping consultant to the children and helped them buy fun sporting goods. Dick's Sporting Goods and the Cam Newton Foundation sponsored the event as part of their efforts to inspire and enable youth sports.

The Special Olympics athletes are participating in the Mecklenburg County Spring Games this week. More than 1,300 Special Olympics athletes are competing in this year’s Spring Games, which include track and field, motor sports, softball and swimming events.

“You see a lot of smiles on these children’s faces and that's contagious,” Newton said.

https://twitter.com/CoreyWSOC9/status/988550497652092928?tfw_site=wsoctv&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wsoctv.com%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fcam-newton-surprises-special-olympic-athletes-with-shopping-spree%2F737222180

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Disney offering hiring bonuses while unions prepare to return to the bargaining table

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 11:45 PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - OCTOBER 01: Walt Disney World Resort (Photo by Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - OCTOBER 01: Walt Disney World Resort (Photo by Jacqueline Nell/Disneyland Resort via Getty Images)(Handout/Getty Images)

Walt Disney World is looking to hire more than 3,500 new workers, even offering “hiring bonuses” of up to $3,000 for some positions. 

>> Read more trending news

It all comes as the unions that represent 38,000 Disney workers get set to go back to the bargaining table next week. 

Unionized workers have been locked in contract talks since last summer -- and since then, they’ve staged demonstrations and gone back to the bargaining table several times, but still have no deal. 

"How can Disney justify giving $3,000 bonuses, when you have 19,000 plus workers making under $11 an hour?” asked Angie McKinnon, a representative of UNITE HERE LOCAL 737.

Union leaders were meeting Monday afternoon as they prepare to head back to the bargaining table one week from Tuesday. 

Union workers voted down Disney’s most recent offer of a 3 percent raise for most workers, with a minimum 50-cents-an-hour raise. 

And union bosses are upset that Disney won’t pay a $1,000 tax-cut bonus to union members -- unless they accept that deal. 

"A lot of them are still waiting on the tax, the money that Disney promised to give them from the tax cut,” said McKinnon. 

“As is the case with all aspects of an employee's compensation package, federal law requires that we negotiate the payment of that bonus with the unions, which we are in the process of doing,” a Disney spokeswoman said. 

As Disney now tries to hire thousands more full- and part-time cast members, the company is able to pay the hiring bonuses because the new cast members won’t be covered by the union contract until after they’re hired. 

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