University finance committee meeting held, WNMU-TV and WNMU-FM audit

Graphic courtesy of NMU

Graphic courtesy of NMU

Ayanna Allen

The NMU Finance Committee met this Feb. 9 on Zoom to discuss the 2020 fiscal year audit regarding the institutions spending on the WNMU-TV and WNMU-FM stations, while also acknowledging the oncoming retirement of WNMU’s General Manager, Eric Smith.

According to the Finance Committee’s homepage, their duty is to review a variety of budgets, changes and plans. When necessary, they report back to the full Board of Trustees. These duties can include reviewing tuition and board rates, guidelines for long term and short-term investments, and financing plans for university projects. During this meeting, a representative from an independent accounting firm went over revenue and expenses from WNMU-TV and WNMU-FM. They ran into no issues regarding the audit and experienced limited delays due to the pandemic.  

Jamie Beauchamp, controller for NMU, went over the details of expenses and revenue. For WNMU-TV, revenue increased about $60,000, however, this was mostly funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Operating expenses reduced about 2.5%, or about $45,000. Contribution increased around $57,000, mostly from a mass amount of donations from many parties. Grant money increased about $240,000 from the Federal Communications Commission for the TV Repack Project. Assets have also increased about $660,000, which also came from the FCC. 

“We have received almost all of the money [from the FCC]. We are down to almost about $30,000 to receive from [the FCC] for that [TV Repack] project,” Beauchamp said.

For WNMU-FM, revenue increased by about $117,000, however operating expenses also increased due to repairs and upgrades to their facilities. Funding increased as well. The CPB also made a new way for stations to calculate support they receive which resulted in higher expenses. 

“All stations had to calculate it a different way, so that’s just an increase there and we would guess that in future years that would level off,” Beauchamp said. 

Towards the close of the meeting, members of the Finance Committee gave their appreciation to the station’s general manager, Eric Smith. 

“Eric has been with the university for 47 years and done an outstanding job for the station. He’s also brought on some good talent that’s going to follow him up,” Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration said. 

Continuing off of what Leach had said, Beachamp stated that Smith has been working on a transition plan to help make the switch smoother when he retires this August.

“He’s left it in good hands moving forward,” Beauchamp said.

Smith was pleased to impart his gratitude towards the university after having been here for nearly five decades. The station has shifted from simply serving the Upper Peninsula community to including the students here at NMU. 

“The instructional opportunities afforded to students have been absolutely amazing,” Smith said. 

Robert Mahaney, trustee on the Board, closed the meeting with one final question to soon-retiring Smith. What effect did the pandemic have on broadcasting operations? With the pandemic, staff have been unable to access the studio to produce programs. 

“It did have an effect … but the good news is, it was a positive effect. We have learned that we can continue to produce local programming without having people in the studio environment,” Smith said. “In this pandemic environment that we’ve all been facing, using the public broadcasting services to disseminate good, high quality information has been paramount.”

The Finance Committee plans to meet again Feb. 11 on Zoom, rediscussing the audit before the Board meeting later this month. Watch the livestream here, on YouTube.