UVM Trustees open access to $100 mil.

The University of Vermont’s board of trustees met in the Maple Ballroom this past week and jokingly tossed around the idea of a donor’s name for the ballroom. The discussion turned to donors during a meeting to discuss UVM’s debt ratio, a monetary ratio between the amount of money held and the amount of money borrowed against that money held. According to Jeff Wakefield of University Communications, UVM trustees in the past would use only the money currently held by UVM, refusing to borrow for any projects. This year, the board voted to increase the ability of UVM to take out around $260 million in debt over the next nine years for building projects. “UVM was simply too small to support it’s extraordinary complexity,” UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel said. The board had a self imposed a 5 percent debt ratio, something that Fogel and many members of the board including Susan Hudson-Wilson, of Chebeague Island, Me., felt was too low. “I am strongly in favor of this increase because I trust we know what we are doing,” this increase because I trust ,nAccording to the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee briefing book, the proposition in front of the board, supported by Fogel and Board chair Carl Lisman was a move to increase the debt ratio limit by one percent, giving UVM access to $100 million more in available capital to continue projects. “I am deeply afraid if we don’t do it, the downside is truly tragic,” Hudson-Wilson said. Other trustees were altogether convinced of the need for a 6 percent debt ratio. “I am really wondering if we need to open the spigot to 6 percent and maybe in 3 or more years open it to 5 and a half percent and see where we are with competition and priorities,” trustee Edwin Amidon of Charlotte, Vt. said. Amidon went on to say that he felt that some of Fogel’s recommended projects are really just “bells and whistles” and did not really have an affect on UVM’s competitive status or need for deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance is one of the primary focuses of Fogel’s plan for the UVM community. “If we do not address maintenance our competitive stature will be severely undermined,” Fogel said. “We have to meet basic standards.” According to Fogel, one of the tenets of his plan is an increase in non-debt revenue to fund an increasing amount of projects. “I believe the next campaign will be significantly larger than the one before,” Fogel said referring to the recently completed campaign that raised $278 million. Some of the trustees in the Budget, Finance and In?vestment committee had questions about the logistics of Fogel’s plan. “We have to hold your feet to the fire, we need real money,” trustee Robert Young of Rutland, Vt. said in questioning Fogel’s non-debt revenue plan for capital funding. Fogel interjected, noting the Billings renovation project had received $3 million dollars from millionaire Luddy Miller for the Holocaust studies collection as an example of real money received by UVM for projects. At the end of the meeting, the board voted strongly in favor of raising the debt ratio with the sole voice of dissent coming from trustee John Snow of Charlotte, Vt. Snow did not see the raise in debt ratio to be appropriate, and felt the 5 percent limit provided discipline to spending.