U.S. Figure Skating Sets Course for Coming Year in Myrtle Beach

by George Rossano

(6 May 2012)  The 2012 business meeting of U.S. Figure Skating was held in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Known as the Governing Council meeting, the financial and operational business of the Association and the and rules of the sport in the United States, where taken up by delegates from member clubs and athletes from throughout the U.S.

The three day meeting began Thursday with educational seminars and preliminary discussions among the participants, the most important of which were the the budget review meeting and critical issues meeting.

The finance committee related that the long term value of the Foundation has grown at an average of 6% per year over a period where inflation has averaged 2.5% per year, which allows the Association to annually tap up to 3.5% of the value of the Foundation while maintaining long term constant inflation adjusted value of the Foundation.  This year the Association income coming from the Foundation payout is 16.6% of the annual budget.

The Association has made great progress in the last year in securing its short term (future four year) financial stability, and the current Foundation spending policy is a tolerable approach to meeting the Association's current needs, but we remain unconvinced that this is a prudent long term approach.

The current spending policy maintains the inflation adjusted value of the Foundation, but also keeps stagnant the inflation adjusted spending power of the funds taken from the Foundation, at a time when  the overall budget of the Association is rising faster than inflation.  Over time, then, the fraction of the Association budget funded by the Foundation will decrease, and the difference will have to be made up by alternate (unidentified) long terms sources of income or future spending cuts.

A more conservative drawdown of the Foundation would allow for some real growth in the value of the Foundation, and would also results in long term real growth in the purchasing power of the funds transferred to the Association.  This, however, would mean less income available short term from the Foundation which would have to be made up by increased revenue from other (unidentified) sources, or short terms budget cuts.  It was also reported that membership in the Association has dropped about 1% over the last year, an improvement over 3% annual declines in membership in prior years.

In the critical issues meeting, the hot topic, of course, was Exhibit D -- the plan to change the Governing Council process.  There was animated discussion on this proposal at the critical issues meeting, in the sectional caucuses on Friday morning, and outside the scheduled meetings.  Passionate discussion in the Governing Council meeting itself on Friday was followed by a closed vote in which Exhibit D was rejected by a 2 to 1 margin.  The collective decision of the delegates was that preserving annual approval of the budget and continuing to have an annual in-person business meeting was essential the governance process of the Association, and superseded the value of the educational meetings and seminars that are also a part of the annual meeting.

As a result, the plan going forward is that in odd numbered years the annual meeting will be one day shorter and will omit the education meetings and seminars, which will continue to be held in even number years.  The budget will continue to be approved on an annual basis, and business will be conducted face-to-face as before.  It is anticipated the elimination of the educational meetings will be mitigated by increased use of webinars during the year.

The delegates did not completely reject the recommendations of the task force that wrote Exhibit D.  In new business the Governing Council asked the Board of Directors to continue to explore and developing some of the concepts presented by the task force, so long as the annual budget approval and annual business meeting were maintained.  Concepts discussed by the Governing Council for the Board to explore included the following:

1.  Investigate the possibility to allow for voters by the delegates between Governing Council meetings.  Delegates serve for a full year and the rules currently allow for mail and fax votes of the delegates, but I cannot recall this ever taking place for several decades at least, if ever.  Allowing electronic votes would require a small (one word) amendment to the bylaws and might prove acceptable to the delegates (our sense of the meeting) if accompanied with an implementation plan that addressed the complexity of issues that might be voted on, security concerns, and the issue of how to incorporate discussion and debate.  One could also envision an implementation plan that would cause another revolt among the delegates.  The devil, as they say, is in the details.

2.  Adding webcasting to the meeting seems to have been generally supported by the delegates, though only as an information tool, and not as a substitute for an in-person business meeting.

3.  Bringing only essential and urgent business to the Governing Council in odd-numbered years was also supported by the delegates.  There was consensus throughout the Association that there are too many trivial changes to the rules proposed too often.

4.  The delegates supported Investigating changing the traditional sectional rotation of the meeting location to allow the meeting to be held in Colorado Springs more often, perhaps even every other year, at least.  When not held in the Springs, the delegates agreed that the cost of the meeting should be allowed to trump the traditional sectional rotation.  This might also mean limiting the meeting to the vicinity of airline hub cities, or cities where hotel and other costs made the location desirable.

One additional cost saving measure discussed by the delegates, and presented under new business, was eliminating printing of the rulebook and stopping free distribution of hard copies.  This concept was attempted a few years ago, and the Association management did not feel the love of the members at the time.  To say, it politely, management got their heads bit off and the idea died.  For understandable reasons, then, the task force had no desire to go down that road again without direction from the delegates.

This year the delegates were decisively receptive to the concept, and in new business directed the board to come up with an implementation plan to make it happen, if not this year, then nextOnce implemented, eliminating printing the rulebook should result in savings of over $100,000 per year

We will not discuss the other individual action items considered at the meeting.  These will be reported by the Association in a few weeks when the combined report of action gets published on the U.S. Figure Skating web site.  None of these were particularly controversial or amusing, except maybe the proposals related to adult skating.  It seems that every year, no matter what actions relate to the adults, someone (often an adult skater) isolates them and then they get endlessly beaten to death.  It would be nice if the adults could get their ducks in a row before they get to the annual meeting.

Despite the animated discussion of some complex issues, this year's annual meeting ended several hours earlier than scheduled -- perhaps a good omen for future condensed and more economical (but equally productive) meetings.

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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano