It falls to me as president of OLLI to deliver the news about the dues increase for 2007. I take no pleasure in doing so.
The Board of Directors, meeting on December 15, 2006, passed a budget for 2007 that increases dues for this year to $350 beginning with the spring term. In addition, the board agreed that OLLI could not borrow against the $50,000 Osher-provided money without the express approval of the board. It also reduced the committee's recommendation of a six-percent staff salary increase to four percent in 2007, but it offered a two-percent bonus amount to be taken from 2006 funds. Further details of that meeting will be published in Friday's OLLI E-News.
Here is the basis of the dues question: the finance committee calculated a budget for 2007 of $345,000 that divided by 725 members equals $476 per member. However, to help offset that figure, we do have other sources, including interest from invested capital and interest money from our million-dollar Osher endowment that will begin paying with 2007. (The endowment does not pay out the full $40,000 per year until 2009 but then we can count on it for years beyond.) We also have an untouchable $50,000 rainy day fund, and a Friends of OLLI fund for capital expenditures. Neither of these can be used for operating funds.
Beyond that, we have additional excess cash of $70,000 that we could use, or we could dip into the $50,000 that the Osher Foundation made available for loan purposes to be paid back by 2014. Some board members felt we should hold on to those funds as long as possible, considering that we might need those funds sooner rather than later. This is not an easily resolved dilemma.
Just as with our personal budgets, looking forward into the year ahead, we have to plan for what is known and what is unknown. So it is with a large budget for an organization like OLLI. The board faced two options: the finance committee recommended we take the short view and plan just for 2007, waiting to see how things develop this year. That would include whether the Loudoun project will be successful and substantially increase revenue, but also whether a heavy financial hit is lurking right around the corner in the form of the UBRC move and associated costs. The finance committee's approach raised the dues to $320 and proposed dipping into the cash reserves or the Osher fund to finance the expected shortfall.
The other view, the long view, is more conservative. It would take into account all the unknown possibilities and be more prudent in not working down our cash reserves substantially or the Osher loan capital this next year, but instead have dues finance expected costs at $350 for 2007. Still, that plan does not preclude additional, albeit lesser, increments in years ahead.
It was this latter position that was adopted unanimously by the board, encouraged by non-members who had supported such a dues raise at the open board meeting on the budget on December 7th. The words "bite the bullet now" were persuasive coming from members-at-large.
I’m sure you will realize how difficult it was for 18 members to reach this conclusion and I hope you will also weigh the value of OLLI membership against this increment and consider your own investment in OLLI a personal good choice.
Warmly, and with best wishes for a fulfilling New Year,
President, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University