Columbia, MO Courthouse

November 12, 2004

MOREnet Council Meeting Minutes

The MOREnet Council met on November 12, 2004, in the Governor's Office Building, Jefferson City, MO. In attendance were Sara Parker, Robert Stein, Curt Fuchs, Annie Busch, Jeanie Gordon and Bill Mitchell. Deborah Sutton represented Susan Cole and Tom Stokes represented Gerry Wethington.

Sara Parker, State Librarian, with the Secretary of State’s Office, called the meeting to order.

Parker welcomed members and guests and asked each to introduce him/herself. She then briefed the group with an overview of the meeting agenda and noted that separating the “subcommittee” and “financial” agenda items is difficult since there are overlapping issues.

Budget/Legislative Strategy Committee

MOREnet Projected Budgets for FY05-07

Holly Fine, with MOREnet, directed members to the October 15 memo from Bill Mitchell that provided notes from the budget subcommittee meeting held September 28. Discussion followed with questions asked about the impact of the delayed E-rate discounts, potential state withholdings that might be assessed for the remainder of the year and the recently approved highway funding issue (approved in the November 2 elections). In all, projections show fairly steady reserves

Reserve Policy for MOREnet Operations

Fine explained the handout asking for a decision with regard to establishing policy for handling reserves. It was recommended “MOREnet maintain a fund reserve equivalent to six months of total operating budget” and the reserves ”be maintained separately in the Shared Network, TNP, REAL and other program accounts.” It was asked where the major reserves come from and why they are kept in separate accounts and whether the policy takes into account a funding cut or some catastrophic occurrence or need. Bill Mitchell explained that MOREnet spends down the annual appropriations, so the reserves reflect E-rate funding; each program generates its specific amount/portion of E-rate dollars, thus the separate accounts. Mitchell explained the policy is not intended to set rigid boundaries and if an issue arose, he would meet with the sponsors to determine a reasonable and mutually agreed on solution. Annie Busch moved to accept the recommendation as posed, with the minutes noting the “catastrophic clause.”The motion was seconded by Curt Fuchs and passed by council members.

Financials

FY05 Budget Update

Fine and Mitchell discussed the current budget and provided an update on public higher education size-appropriate connection policy, directing members to the back of the September 28 budget subcommittee memo. Fine explained the FY05 budget looks stable, with some unexpected decreases in costs because of new contracts and the expected release of E-rate funds. She noted, however, the E-rate funding would likely not be received this fiscal year.

Mitchell explained MERC had begun discussion of the size-appropriate connection issue and likely should be able to make a recommendation for review at the next council meeting. It was suggested the council schedule the next meeting in late January or early February to allow MERC more time.

FY06 HB3 Summary

Members were directed to the handout providing a summary of recommended new requests and what had been approved by the Department of Higher Education. Robert Stein commented Departmental requests for FY06 funding are seven times higher than the revenues projected to be available. Fine mentioned the projected costs for next year are not quite as bleak as projected and Mitchell said the council has some flexibility in moving moneys. Stein agreed the requests would be lumped into one sum and not itemized, but cautioned against any action that would be counter to the intent of the legislation/appropriation. The question also arose about “next generation” costs and Mitchell responded this is still being studied and estimates should be made available to the council in the spring.

Budget/Legislative Strategy Committee

Legislative Strategy and Implementation

David Byland, with MOREnet, directed members to the legislative stategy-FY06 appropriations materials. It was explained the strategy plan is still a work in progress and it was requested updates be made available to members on a regular basis via e-mail. Much discussion followed with regard to the goals of the legislative strategy, as presented on the front page of the document – cautioning against language that makes it appear that the council could go around or supersede CBHE (or State Library or DESE) funding decisions. It was suggested that item #3 be reworded to say the plan will influence legislative action on HB3 to”working with and through lobbyists as requested by MOREnet sponsoring agencies”. Bill assured members that all actions focusing on FY06 legislation would be centered on the interests of the current sponsors (House Bills 3 and 12).

There also was much discussion on the term “key legislators.” It was suggested that, while it is important to identify legislators serving on key committees, steps should not be taken that might slight anyone. All legislators should be treated as important to MOREnet support. When asked, Mitchell indicated he will be the MOREnet representative “working the hallway” and will be assisted by Holly Fine. Joyce Herzing will serve as a central point of contact to compile the legislative reports.

Council Spokesperson

The specific legislative strategy regarding the identification of a council spokesperson was discussed as a separate agenda item. Members voiced concern about how the council was created to provide advice and feedback. It was recommended there not be any language that would formally designate a spokesperson. Rather, the plan should develop strategies to help identify those who might be appropriate to testify at specific events. Other suggestions included for DESE to have a presence during appropriate HB3 and HB12 discussions and for MOREnet to institutionalize the message council members can share when meeting with their representative groups. The example given was to provide information to the Missouri Council of School Administrators that would help inform superintendents about why they should pay attention to these bills in addition to the bills they normally follow.

Planning Subcommittee

Strategic Plan

Chip Byers, with MOREnet and leader of the planning team, discussed the status of strategic planning and referred members to the September 29 meeting notes. The plan draft was described as setting guiding principles for the next three to five years, with annual action plans yet to be developed/completed and with year one primarily focused on meeting the needs of existing sponsors. MOREnet indicated it would share with council members on a regular basis any copies of new drafts, the annual plans when they are developed and other updates.

It was asked if the plan intended to move MOREnet beyond research and education. Council members emphasized traditional sponsors should remain the base, with an additional sponsor added only when it clearly fits in and can add value to the “base” community. Mitchell noted MOREnet did not have any preset expectations, would not be chasing money and would consider a sponsor as having an identifiable community of its own and not just a single or individual entity. It was suggested the language be modified so the plan shows the intent to keep the basic community and additional sponsors may be added where there’s a logical fit (whether we seek them or they request such an alliance). It was suggested Goal II be reworded to state “Provide the most valuable set of services to address the diverse needs of our community of customers” – stressing diverse needs of the traditional community rather than suggesting diverse customers.

It was questioned whether Goal III, which focuses on leadership, might take away from the first two goals that deal with providing a reliable, robust network and meeting the needs of customers. It was agreed MOREnet should be proactive, participate in national initiatives rather than watch as bystander. The consensus was the plan should indicate set assumptions that show priority and provide focus.

Digital Resources

While digital resources are addressed in Goal III. D. of the plan, the planning committee thought the topic deserved special attention. After much discussion, council members felt a clearinghouse of information and resources would be of value and could be sponsored by any of several organizations. Action would include defining what is meant by digital resources and working with sponsors to identify appropriate resources and best practices.

Financials

Possible FY07 Budget Requests

Bill Mitchell described preparing for the next generation, with MOREnet assembling a technology engineering team that would be headed up by Ben Colley. The team would talk with customers, look at emerging technology equipment and functionality and present plans and cost estimates to the council. This will need to be accomplished in the next six to nine months to have figures in place for a possible FY07 request.

E-rate Program Update

David Byland explained MOREnet filed applications to receive approximately $5.6 million dollars in discounts for FY05 but the SLD (Schools and Libraries Division) had stopped sending funding decision commitment letters in August while it switched to new accounting measures. Byland mentioned recent news indicated letters would start again in late November, but he noted it will take some time for MOREnet to receive all of its discounts. Also, MOREnet announced the hiring of Rebecca J. Miller, Esq., to serve as MOREnet’s E-rate Program Manager.

Other State-Funded Activity

Missouri Network Management Consortium Update

Mitchell mentioned the consortium members had a difficult time defining “state network” and the team is looking at developing an “optimization” versus a “consolidation” plan. An optimization plan could help bridge efforts between separate networks that for one reason or another make sense to keep separate (such Highway Patrol’s emergency preparedness efforts). Mitchell is uncertain if an actual report will be made if there is concern a report would draw negative attention or create an issue where there is none.

Other MOREnet Activity

Missouri Statenet External Performance Measures Update

Bill Mitchell said that efforts are on track, with MOREnet working on the materials for legislative distribution. Besides including the usual charts, MOREnet is collecting quotes/anecdotes to help show how the network impacts customer work efficiency and productivity. Council members noted the materials should not look too flashy or costly to print.

Council Business

FY05 MOREnet Council Planning Calendar and Meeting Dates

Members were referred to the planning calendar. With no questions, the council turned to setting meeting dates for 2005, with the following dates proposed:

  • Winter – February 4, 2005
  • Spring – April 1, 2005
  • Summer – July 15, 2005
  • Fall – November 18, 2005

Chair-Elect

It was decided to move this item to the next meeting, in light of the recent elections and possible changes in personnel in the sponsoring agencies. It was noted the Department of Higher Education will have a new commissioner and there will be a new Secretary of State.

Other Business

Terms of some of the members will expire soon and sponsoring agencies need to take appropriate action. It was noted members may be re-appointed.

Meeting Closed

With no additional business or discussion, Parker adjourned the meeting at approximately 1:40 p.m.

The Council will meet Friday, February 4, 2005, in the Governor's Office Building in Jefferson City.