Monday, January 22, 2018

University Senate report urges selling off Cessna Citation CJ4, N414KU



Topeka — A group of faculty, staff and students at the University of Kansas is urging the administration to sell off its private jet, a move it says could generate upwards of $6.6 million immediately and save the university more than $1 million a year in operating costs.

The administration does not appear likely to do that, calling the plane an important business tool used for donor relations, athletics recruitment, and outreach initiatives by the KU Medical Center.

But the issue may come up anyway this year at the Kansas Legislature, where the chairman of the House budget committee has said he wants to review the entire state aircraft fleet, with an eye toward possibly liquidating some of them.

The recommendation to sell the plane came in an 88-page report by the University Senate’s Planning and Resources Committee that was released last spring, along with a separate report criticizing the administration for what it viewed as excessive consulting fees being paid out by KU.

Administration officials issued their written response to it in December.

The plane in question is a Cessna CJ4, a twin-turbine jet plane that seats up to 10 passengers and can fly at high speeds with a range of just over 2,000 miles.

But the report noted that most of the flights the plane is used for are for distances of less than 300 miles, with few passengers on board, and it suggests the university could easily get by using smaller, propeller-driven planes that KU’s Aerospace Engineering Department uses for educational and research purposes.

“It’s akin to owning a Lamborghini and using it to haul hay half a block to feed your horses. It’s that wasteful,” Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, an aerospace engineering professor at KU, and a member of the nine-member committee that approved the report, said in a phone interview. “We’ve got the wrong aircraft, we’re utilizing it the wrong way and it’s wasteful.”

The report analyzed the plane’s use over a period from January 2015 through February 2017 and found that 61 percent of the flights on the jet were for traveling less than 300 miles.

During that period, the jet was used to make 492 trips, or 494 flight hours, traveling a total of 157,955 nautical miles, or 580,088 passenger miles.

KU Athletics accounted for nearly half of the trips and about 62 percent of the flight hours. The KU Medical Center accounted for 16 to 27 percent of the plane’s utilization, depending on which measure is used, while the chancellor’s office accounted for about 10 to 15 percent.

The athletics department, however, does not pay for those trips directly.

“The (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations the University operates under require that all payments for flights come from the state treasury,” Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Neeli Bendapudi said in their written response to the report. “An allocation from general fees is made to the Department of Athletics, which the department may use to pay for air travel.”

Barrett-Gonzalez said he found that unacceptable.

“Kansas Athletics would probably like to show up in a jet on their recruiting trips. I understand that,” he said. “But the amount of wasted money in tight budgetary times, we just can’t justify.”

But what really grabbed the committee’s attention was the cost of operating the plane, at just over $1 million a year, the bulk of which goes toward salaries, fuel and maintenance. It was a figure that the committee said was probably too low.

“Missing from the accounting is the cost of capital for the jet, aircraft depreciation, utilities, hangar rent, and other nontrivial categories which would be included in accounting for an equivalent commercial operator,” the report stated.

Even with that low figure, however, the committee said KU’s operational costs were considerably higher than the industry average: $4,856 per flight hour, which the report said was 1.6 to 2.5 times higher than average; $15.01 per nautical mile flown, which is 6.2 times higher than average; and $3.95 per passenger mile, which the report said was nearly 10 times higher than average.

“There are several factors that are causing this, including low occupancy rates, low utilization rates and exorbitant expenses,” the report stated.

Girod and Bendapudi, however, defended the expense, saying in their written response, “Operational costs are more than offset by the benefits back to the university through funds received through philanthropic efforts and athletics as well as savings through opportunity and lost productivity cost avoidance.”

But Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he is not yet convinced.

“We’re taking a look at all of the aircraft owned by the state of Kansas, and possible liquidation,” he said in a recent interview.

Last year, Waymaster said, he and fellow Appropriations Committee member Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Wichita, began reviewing the state’s aircraft fleet.

“And there were some interesting things that popped up when we started looking into that,” he said. “Why some departments have an aircraft. And basically it’s owned by the state of Kansas and they have to get permission to use the aircraft, but still, they’re the frequent user of it. And that’s what kind of got me a little interested with this (KU) plane.”

Waymaster did not suggest that a specific proposal for selling off aircraft is currently in the works, but he indicated it would be part of the committee’s deliberations this year as it tries to balance the budget while still funding what could be a large increase in K-12 education spending.

Original article and comments ➤ http://www2.ljworld.com

Editorial: University of Kansas jet creates perception issue

The University of Kansas should, at a minimum, revise policies for use of its jet in light of questions raised about operation of the jet since it was purchased at the end of 2014.

The university’s Cessna Citation CJ4 carries up to 10 passengers and was paid for by an $8.1 million grant provided by KU Endowment, the university’s nonprofit fundraising foundation. The jet is used for KU Medical Center’s medical outreach program, administrator travel and KU Athletics recruiting trips.

But the University Senate’s Planning and Resources Committee has issued a report that shows the jet is mostly used for flights of less than 300 miles, and most of the flights are below full occupancy.

The report analyzed the plane’s use from January 2015 through February 2017. The jet was used to make 492 trips that totaled 157,955 miles, an average of 321 miles per trip. The report found that 61 percent of the flights were for less than 300 miles.

KU Athletics accounted for nearly half of the trips. The KU Medical Center accounted for about 27 percent of the plane’s utilization, and the chancellor’s office accounted for about 10 to 15 percent.

The report concludes selling the jet would raise more than $6 million and save the university more than $1 million per year in operational costs.

Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, an aerospace engineering professor at KU and a member of the nine-member committee that approved the report, said the university could accomplish its mission with a propeller-driven plane that is significantly less expensive to purchase and operate.

Operation of KU’s jet is paid for out of the state treasury, and entities such as KU Athletics reimburse the treasury per trip. But the University Senate report raised questions about reimbursement rates compared to actual costs, raising concerns that taxpayers are unfairly subsidizing the jet.

University Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Neeli Bendapudi defended the jet, saying its costs are offset by “the benefits back to the university through funds received through philanthropic efforts and athletics as well as savings through opportunity and lost productivity cost avoidance.”

But three years into its use, the university should carefully weigh those benefits against the perception that the jet is an expensive luxury that simply isn’t necessary. Most universities don’t own such jets. An Associated Press report last year identified just 20 schools that did. In the Big 12, only Texas, Iowa State and Kansas had jets, and Iowa State has decided to sell its jet.

If the university decides to keep the jet, at a minimum, policies for its use should be reviewed. The current policy does not have a distance limit, though flights to locations less than 90 miles away require approval of either the chancellor or provost. The university should consider a more restrictive limit and higher reimbursement rates to ensure they are fully adequate to cover all costs.

At a time when tuition continues to increase and the university’s top legislative priority is getting the state to restore millions in lost funding, KU can ill afford the perception problems its private jet creates.

Original article and comments ➤ http://www2.ljworld.com

Kobach flew in KU jet for lunch, speaking engagement; university says cost to taxpayers was $4,400

Topeka — In February 2015, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach chartered a private jet owned by the University of Kansas so he could attend a luncheon in Wichita and speak at the Kingman County Career Day in the town of Kingman, about 45 miles west of Wichita.

The cost of that flight, according to KU officials, was $4,400. That cost ultimately was charged to the Secretary of State’s office.

That flight, which was documented in a recent University Senate report, represents one example of why some faculty, staff and students at KU are now calling on the administration to sell that plane, a move they say would not only generate about $6.6 million in immediate cash, but also save the university more than $1 million a year in operational costs.

But it also has caught the attention of some in the Kansas Legislature who are calling for a broad review of the state’s entire aircraft fleet, with an eye toward liquidating at least part of it.

Kobach, a Republican who was first elected Secretary of State in 2010, is now a candidate for governor in the 2018 election. And as part of his campaign, he has frequently criticized the Legislature for what he has called its “culture of corruption.”

That has rankled the feathers of some GOP leaders in the Statehouse, and those feathers weren’t smoothed when learning about Kobach’s $4,400 flight to a lunch and speaking engagement.

“When we’re talking about, obviously, the corruption in Topeka, why couldn’t you drive to Wichita? Why would you need to take a plane?” Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, asked rhetorically during a recent interview.

Waymaster said he plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s aircraft fleet as part of this year’s budget-writing process.

“I know there might be time constraints; there might be scheduling issues,” Waymaster said. “But if I have to go anywhere in the state, I have to drive. Now, I’m not an elected executive officeholder. But I still think, if you’re looking at trying to use the dollars that taxpayers send to Topeka, driving would be far more efficient than using a state plane.”

The University Senate committee that wrote the report, however, said the actual cost to KU may have been considerably higher.

After examining all of the flights taken by the jet over a 25-month period, from January 2015 through February 2017, the committee concluded that the actual operational cost penciled out to $4,856 per hour flown, or $15.01 per nautical mile flown — rates that the committee said were far above industry averages for that type of plane.

At that rate, according to the committee’s figures, the actual cost would have been between $5,341 (for the 1.1 hours of flight) and $10,567 (for the 704 nautical miles flown).

A KU spokesman said KU officials do not necessarily accept those estimates.

The private jet that Kobach and one of his aides used for the trip, a Cessna CJ4, has been the target of questions and criticism since the university acquired it around January 2015 at a reported cost of $8.1 million, a purchase funded by the KU Endowment Association.

And while its purpose ostensibly is to serve the university’s own travel needs — athletics recruiting, donor relations and operations of the KU Medical Center, according to KU officials — the university says the jet also is made available on occasion to other state agencies.

“Since KU is a state agency, we have occasionally allowed state agencies to use the university’s aircraft,” KU spokesman Joe Monaco said in an email. “Relatedly, KU occasionally uses state aircraft when we have multiple requests that we are not able to fulfill with our own university aircraft.”

Monaco added that the university operates the plane under Federal Aviation Administration regulations that require all flights to be paid for from the state treasury, explaining why the costs were billed to the Secretary of State’s office.

Kobach did not respond personally to telephone messages requesting comment. But his spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, said in an email that Kobach limits his use of state airplanes, but at times, he travels by state plane due to scheduling reasons. She also said Kobach has reduced other overhead costs in the Secretary of State’s office.

“This flight took place in (fiscal year 2015), costing the agency $4,400 in a year that the agency spent $300,000 less than the prior year,” she wrote. “The state planes that are normally used by statewide officers were unavailable. The KU plane is one of the alternatives that is used under such circumstances. Secretary Kobach’s record of fiscal responsibility is undeniable.”

Original article and comments ➤ http://www2.ljworld.com

1 comment:

Charlie said...

Mahbe they could sell the plane to Rev Copeland? Oohps, he already got one. Dang demons!