Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 16, 2023
MMA trustee meeting centers on fiscal sustainability
by Michael Dickerson
Fiscal sustainability was the central theme of the November 9 Maine Maritime Academy Board of Trustees quarterly meeting. MMA seeks to increase revenue from multiple sources to compensate for its structural budget deficit, which is projected to be $2.7 million for Fiscal Year 2024, according to Richard Rosen, Vice President for Financial and Institutional Services.
President Jerald Paul said he has been making the case for increased funding from the state to Gov. Janet Mills and the state legislature. Currently, MMA receives about 22 percent of its $47 million operating budget from the state, according to Paul. Other peer state institutions in Maine receive an average of 44 percent of their operating budget from the state while other state maritime academies average over 40 percent in host state funding.
On November 9, State Senator Nicole Grohoski sponsored a legislative bill request for consideration during the next session beginning January 3 to increase state funding for MMA. The bill, LR2800, did not pass, but Grohoski has filed an appeal to vote again to move the bill forward, which is scheduled to take place on November 16.
MMA has received legislative approval to form a non-profit foundation for fundraising purposes, the creation of which was unanimously approved by the trustees. Paul noted the need for MMA to increase fundraising, particularly from its alumni.
MMA also seeks to increase enrollment to reduce its budget deficit, though Paul noted “colleges cannot balance their budgets on undergraduate enrollment alone.” The size of the most recent undergraduate class is 257 with a target of over 300 for the incoming class next year. Additionally, the trustees unanimously approved a resolution to increase 2024-25 tuition and fees by no more than 3 percent.
With ambitions for MMA to become the top maritime college in the world, Paul suggested the academy “cannot compete if [it] cannot pay [its] bills.”
MMA is carrying out two major ongoing infrastructure projects: the $30 million renovation of Curtis Hall and the $60 million construction of a new pier for the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV), which is now expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2025.
The renovation of Curtis Hall has begun and is scheduled to continue through most of 2026. The project will include upgrades to the building’s climate control systems, new windows throughout the building, replacing pipes and showers, and renovations to the main lobby.
Chief Operating Officer Craig Johnson maintained that MMA is doing everything in its power to obtain federal permits for the construction of the new pier as soon as possible. Johnson remains “confident [that] permitting will come soon.”
Paul announced that the Schooner Bowdoin will return to the Arctic in 2024 for the first time in nearly a decade and for the fourth time since MMA took possession of the vessel in 1988. The Bowdoin, a National Historic Landmark, was commissioned by Donald Baxter MacMillan specifically for Arctic exploration. Bowdoin was launched in 1921 from Hodgdon and Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay.
Bill Full, president of the MMA Alumni Association, announced that the MMA Sailing Team finished fifth at the Kennedy Cup, the national intercollegiate keelboat championship. The regatta was hosted by the U.S. Naval Academy and took place November 5-6.
Kate Noel, Vice President of Student Affairs and College Relations, announced plans for a student shuttle. The shuttle will initially operate between Castine, Penobscot, and Bucksport from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, beginning in December. The intention is to eventually expand the route to Bangor.
On December 10, according to Noel, MMA will hold a moment of silence in remembrance of those who perished on that date in 2022.