ASHS President Dewayne Ingram summarizes recent Board actions in regard to the Society's finances.
In recent “Reflections” columns, I have addressed some of the benefits of being a member of ASHS. This premier society for horticultural science has served our profession well, and we are ASHS. ASHS promotes horticulture in ways that we cannot do individually and gives support and professional opportunities to each of us. I also indicated that the cost of those benefits has been kept in check over the last 9 years due to increasingly efficient management and long-term cost reduction strategies. It is hard to believe that we have not increased dues, subscription rates, or publishing fees since 2003, or annual conference registration since 1998. You know very well in your personal finances that costs have definitely gone up in that timeframe. For the past several years, the Finance Committee and Board of Directors have wrestled with the fact that we are now operating a lean and effective organization, but inflationary expenses still are outstripping revenue. All current programs and member benefits have been examined and determined to be cost-effective and/or critical to the society’s mission.
In this column, I want to give you some background from the Finance Committee and Board discussions over the past few years and summarize the recent action taken by the Board. Over the past two years, I have been impressed by the level of detailed assessment of our finances. Examples of these actions to increase efficiencies and control costs include:
- Facilities have been reduced from 8400 to 3600 square feet by purchasing a new HQ facility, which the Society will own outright in 2024.
- The number of employees has been reduced from 13 full-time and 2 part-time in 1997 to 5 full-time and 6 part-time in 2012. In addition, there were no staff salary increases in 2010 and 2012, with only conservative cost-of-living adjustments in 2011.
- Certain operations have been outsourced when cost-effective and manageable. Examples include our online peer-review system, accounting services, and journal physical production services.
Even with all these cost reductions, ASHS has been running a slight operational deficient for the past three years. As hard as it is to increase dues and fees, it would be irresponsible not to take some action. The Board has implemented very modest increases for 2012 and will likely need slight increases in subsequent years to maintain the financial health of our Society. The Finance Committee and Board will continue to assess that annually. This gradual increase is respectful of the stress on your individual and institutional budgets. The increases approved by the Board last month for 2012 are:
- Membership dues for Active Members were increased $10 to $115.
- Subscription rates for the Journal and HortScience was increased $5 to $60 (online only); $10 to $65 (paper only); $15 to $85 (paper and online).
- Subscription rates for HortTechnology were increased $15 to $40 (online only); $20 to $45 (paper and online).
- Annual Conference registration was increased $25 to $420.
The annual subscription rate for HortTechnology has been $25 since 1991. During that time, it has progressed from a quarterly to a bi-monthly journal, with published pages increasing from 508 in1992 to 796 in 2011. HortTechnology has been extremely successful as an outreach-type, refereed journal. However, it has always been published at a financial loss. It was originally planned as an external outreach journal, but all but 11 current subscribers are ASHS members. Therefore, publishing this highly successful (in terms of subscriptions, submissions, and citation) journal at an operational loss can no longer be justified. The deficit for several years has been significant and we must bring the subscription rate in line with the other journals over the next few years. Also, HortScience went from bi-monthly to monthly publication due to continually increasing submissions.
Curt Rom, our Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee, is providing more details about our budget in a separate article in an upcoming issue of the ASHS Newsletter. Your Finance Committee has done due-diligence in working with staff to make sure our budget and finances are managed well.
We truly hope these small increases do not place a hardship on anyone. We avoided placing additional costs on students and postdocs at this time. We owe it to the premier scientific society for horticulture to maintain its financial health while providing important, high-quality member services.
In summary, ASHS has a strong financial health. However, for ASHS to continue to provide the service that we members demand, we need to make sure our dues and subscriptions are in line with inflationary expenses. As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on this, or any, subject.
"Reflections" published January 2012 - ASHS Newsletter