FIU Board of Trustees holds final meeting to discuss future plans

Carla Mendez | Staff Writer

To conclude an eventful semester, the Board of Trustees met for a final time to discuss and plan for the rest of the year.

President Alexander Sutton relayed his final remarks as student body president and passed the torch to president-elect Francesca Cassanova. 

The Board reviewed action items about the renewal of the naming of the FIU Arena and an update on the recently approved student resident facility at the Modesto Maidique campus and the contract with Ed Financial Services. 

As a discussion item, Chief Financial Officer Aime Martinez presented the University financial statement audit for the fiscal year ending on June 30th, 2023. 

The first action that was discussed during the meeting was the renewal of the naming of the FIU Arena as the Ocean Bank Convocation Center at the MMC campus. Athletic Director Scott Carr presented the renewal of the naming of the FIU Arena for the committee’s review.   

“During the exclusive negotiation period with them, we were able to work on a great renewal,” Carr says, speaking on the deal between FIU and Ocean Bank corporation. He continued, “What that would be is a 10-year naming rights partnership that will total $5.6 million– an average of $565,000 a year.” This 124% increase in revenue is significantly more than the previous 5-year deal made and the motion was passed unanimously.  

The revenue will start at $470,000 next year and climb annually until reaching $680,000 by year 10. “We’re looking to have this enhance our operating budget is the main area we’re looking to use these funds to continue to grow our programs,” said Carr. 

Another anticipated topic of discussion during the meeting was the resolution of the previously approved student residence facility program and the project’s total cost.

Martinez re-introduced this notion to the committee stating, “This past February, the Board of Trustees approved a suite-style residence hall with 816 beds at an estimated cost of $184.5 million.” 

FIU plans to put a contribution of $20 million to the deal from housing system reserves. “Since that day, we have submitted the project request and the full package to the board of governors and the division of bond finance, so they are diligently reviewing, “ said Martinez. The team has continued to work on the evaluation of the construction cost estimate to increase the number of beds for this project. 

The revised estimate of the project costs will provide for multiple options that would result in a larger facility, stronger than projected dead service coverage as well which will be beneficial for the financing terms. 

Martinez introduced an increase in the approved budget for the project that could yield more cost-efficient results. She states, “If we go to 200 million we can build 1,040 beds, resulting in an improved dead service coverage and the cost per bed which is a factor that we were looking at and discussing with the board of governors.” 

Pushing for the increase in budget, Martinez added, “We could have a bigger impact to meet our students’ demands with minimal impact on the housing auxiliary operations, and not affect the previous rate increases that were previously approved.” 

“If we’re going to go for this, let’s go as far as we can go, knowing that we are not taking additional financial risk with the coverage we have, with the demand that we have.” For students, this project would promise comfortable on-campus living dorms with affordable pricing compared to the broader Miami housing market. 

“Our unmet demand was 1,400 beds so we would still be within the gap that needs to be filled, we currently have 3,814 beds on campus which represents 10% of our undergrad population of 38,000 students,” said Martinez. She continued and said, “with an additional 940 beds on campus, our on-campus population would grow 12%.” 

But this 12% is still low compared to other neighboring schools such as FAU (20%), FSU (21%), and UF (26%). The board has delegated authority to Chairman Rogelio Tovar and Vice-Chairman Carlos A. Duart to finalize the programming and the total project cost with both Trustees being in favor of a bigger project projection. 

Trustee Duart added, “You have to be responsible, but I think the 1,400 bed projection is underestimated, especially 10 or 5 years from now… my thing is about going as big and as high as possible, within the parameters.” 

The FIU financial statement audit for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023. In this report, FIU received a clean bill of health. The university has assets of just below $2 billion and there was an increase of 6.3% in capital assets especially due to the construction of the Tamiami Hall housing project. 

The strategic planning committee was introduced by Vice Chair Francis A. Hondal who called the meeting to order. The committee reviewed the action item relating to the FIU annual accountability plan and updates about the strategic plan as well as the campus master plan. Provost Elizabeth Béjar took the committee through the 2024 accountability plan.

Béjar stated, “We remain committed to our role as an anchor public research university of this community, driving economic prosperity through education, research, and innovation.” The Board of Trustees’ approval of the campus master plan is now anticipated for November 2024.

Correction: The spelling of Scott Carr has been fixed. The original article stated Aime Martinez was a trustee when she is not. That has been fixed. (April 26, 2024)

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