Facilities Services

Although there are fewer students on campus during the summer, UT continues to operate at its regular pace.

Despite enrollment dropping to around 16,000 students during the summer, there is not a significant drop in the amount of energy and water usage on campus because of hot temperatures and several departments that are still operating with the same number of staff.

Facilities Services spokeswoman Laurie Lentz said the energy and water rates do not change because of the climate.

“The hot summers raise the demand for electricity and water,” Lentz said. “So where we really see the lowest usage is in the winter months.”

Summer air conditioning accounts for energy usage remaining at fall and spring semester levels. According to Lentz, the buildings still need to be cooled despite less students and faculty members using them during the summer. Water usage does not drop-off because of the increased need for irrigation during the summer months.

“We’ve greatly improved the irrigation system, but nevertheless some irrigation has to take place,” Lentz said.

Unlike the number of students and faculty members on campus, the number of staff workers on campus does not decrease during the summer. According to Lentz, some departments are busiest during the summer.

“The staff numbers don’t fluctuate as much as the student and faculty numbers,” Lentz said. “For example, Project Management and Construction Services, summer is actually their biggest time of the year.” 

With class in session during the summer, the University offers on-campus housing to students as it does during the fall and spring semesters. According to Laurie Mackey, Division of Housing and Food Service administrative services director, approximately 400 to 600 students live on campus during the average summer.

Because of the low number, the University does not operate the dormitories on the northern side of campus, including Duren, Carothers and others. However the University continues to operate Brackenridge, Prather, Roberts and San Jacinto dorms for summer on-campus housing. Jester is used throughout the summer for Freshman Orientation.

Besides summer school and orientation, UT also plays host to various camps and conferences during the summer. According to Mackey, approximately 12,000 people attend a camp or conference held at the University. These tenants are also housed in Jester. These events range in focus from poetry and social justice to ballet and rowing.

Mackey said the DHFS retains their staff during summer. She said because Jester has to be constantly cleaned between orientations, camps and conferences, the DHFS staff from the closed dorms are relocated to the south side.

The DHFS also operates Jester City Limits and Market, the Jester Second Floor Dining Hall, Cypress Bend Café and the Littlefield Patio Café during the summer.

Lentz said the campus could potentially bring down the energy and water usage numbers, if each person on campus made small efforts to conserve. Lentz said in a recent one-day campaign by Facilities Services in April, students were encouraged to use less electricity for one hour resulting in campus power usage dropping by 2.7 percent.

“It would certainly help if people conserve and don’t have their thermostats turned up. I think that we really can make an impact,” Lentz said. “If everybody did a few things, it would certainly help.”

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The Facilities Services division of the J.J. Pickle Research Campus is undergoing restructuring affecting 52 employees. This restructuring will allow the department to “improve efficiency” and fund a “contingency reserve” that could pay for merit-based pay increases.

This University department oversees landscaping, custodial services and maintenance at the main campus and the University’s satellite institutions, including the Pickle Research Campus and the Dell Pediatric Institute. These departments are now being consolidated into one department on the main campus, said Facilities Services director Mike Miller.

Seven of the employees affected are in managerial positions and will be laid off, but can apply to new positions being opened at the main campus, Miller said.

“We are trying to take care of the employees affected by offering 10 new positions that they can apply for, although they are still going to have to be qualified for the new positions,” Miller said.

Thirty-five custodial employees are also being brought to main campus from the Pickle Research Campus, Miller said, where the vacant positions will now be filled by SSC Service Contractors, an outside custodial company, to be paid a negotiated sum. Ten landscaping workers will remain at the Pickle Research Campus.

“We have an opportunity to improve efficiency by making these changes, bringing the main campus and the other areas closer together where they had been separated,” said Steven Kraal, senior associate vice president of the office of Campus Planning and Facilities Management. “We expect all of the changes to be completed over the summer by August 31.”

From reductions in labor costs amounting to $500,000, Facilities Services will be able to come much closer to meeting a “2 percent self-funded contingency reserve” of $548,600 mandated by the University, Kraal said.

The two percent contingency is part of the proposed 2012-2013 budget, and it is unclear at this moment how the reserves will be allocated, said Pat Clubb, vice president for University operations.

This reserve allows individual departments to cover for budget holes resulting from cuts by the Legislature or other circumstances, said Mary Knight, associate vice-president and budget director of the Budget Office.

Facilities Services spokesperson Laurie Lentz said their contingency reserve might “very possibly” pay for merit increases that could be one-time bonuses or payroll increases.
“The University is setting aside 2 percent of every budget to cover future cuts, or very possibly to pay for merit increases,” Lentz said. “We will not know for awhile yet whether its going to cover budget gaps or if will go to merit increases.”

Any employee who meets or exceeds job performance evaluations could qualify for the merit increase, Lentz said, although the center has not received instructions on how merit would be evaluated.

“We generally receive some kind of instruction during the year from the administration as to whether we will be doing out merit-based pay and how we will do merits, but we haven’t received that yet,” Lentz said.

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as:Restructuring could find merit-based pay increases