Board report for Oct. 29-Nov. 1 meeting

Board approves 2015-2016 Budget

At its meeting on campus Oct. 29-Nov.1, the College’s Board of Directors approved what board chair Teresa Pike Tomlinson described as “the most responsible budget the College has adopted in many years.” Starting months late because of the attempted closure, the budget was developed by the administrative team from information provided by various campus departments, thoroughly reviewed by the board’s Finance Committee under the direction of chair Rocky Query, and endorsed by both the Finance Committee and the Executive Committee. It was unanimously adopted by the full board.

With projected total expenses of $29.5 million, the budget represents a significant reduction from last year’s $42.1 million in expenses. Revenue is projected to be $31.8 million, compared to last year’s revenue of $42.2 million. It should be noted however that last year’s revenue included $5 million paid on the last day of the fiscal year by Saving Sweet Briar Inc. Particularly significant is the projected amount of endowment to be spent during the current year. That amount is set at 5 percent of the endowment fund, the lowest percentage in more than 10 years. Last year, the College consumed almost $11 million of endowment; in the current budget, it is anticipated that only $3.5 million of endowment resources will be used.

Several points need to be made about this budget:

  • It represents extraordinary work by the campus community, starting almost six months later than usual in preparing the budget, because of the closing efforts. That problem was exacerbated by the loss of so many of our experienced staff.
  • Although it is indeed the most responsible budget prepared by the College in several years, it is nonetheless painful because of cuts and reductions needed to help us reach financial stability.
  • The budget clearly reflects the extraordinary fundraising already achieved by Saving Sweet Briar Inc. and other alumnae and friends of the College, but is also dependent on their continued financial support. Without that support, we would have no choice but to consume a greater portion of the endowment to operate. They are truly superstars!
  • This budget should by no means be seen simply as a plan to help us survive one year: This is a strong operating budget reflecting our realistic commitment to operate for at least another 114 years!

Other board items

  • The board approved a recommendation from the administration to employ a consulting firm to assist the College in better use of social media and other communications tools in our effort to recruit students. More information about that action will be provided soon.
  • The board received reports from the vice presidents and directors as well as the board committees.
  • The board met with student leaders and with members of the Faculty Executive Committee to exchange ideas and to hear suggestions and questions.
  • In addition to a discussion of the proposed budget, the board spent a significant amount of time reviewing plans for building enrollment, including the recruitment of international students.
  • Chair of the board committee on development, Mary Pope Hutson, and VP for alumnae relations and development, Bun Perkinson, led a board discussion on plans for fundraising not only for the requirements of the immediate budget but for the next several years as the College moves to financial stability. With recognition that a very small first-year class this year means that enrollment will need several years to reach a normal pattern, the board acknowledged the need to continue significant fundraising efforts.
  • In further pursuit of its intention to be engaged with the campus and general community, the board adjourned in time to join members of the campus for a tailgate party at the final field hockey game of the season. In addition to an opportunity to see good friends and meet new ones, board members wanted to see the recognition of the seniors on the team and to cheer them on. We had urged other athletes to be present to participate in our tailgate party.

President’s “Rolling Stone” tour

My travels continue at a quick pace. This week I will be in Texas visiting alumnae and friends of the College. It has been heartwarming to have so many alumnae turn out for these events and to have them express such passion and commitment for their school. I can assure everyone that the excitement and energy generated around the immediate acts of saving Sweet Briar have not waned. Everyone is still supercharged with the obvious belief as to any potential for failure: “Not on our watch!” It is a privilege to be associated with such committed and energetic alumnae.