By Chris Kamp, S.E., FSEAOC, 2016-2017 SEAOC President
Design professionals in California this month had a big political win with the passing of the Senate Bill 496. This bill modifies the immediate “Duty to Defend” requirements that are often included in contracts with governments and public agencies. In simple terms the immediate duty to defend clause requires the design professional to contribute to the legal defense costs for a project, even if there is no proof that the design professional had done anything wrong or deficient. These clauses are many times not covered by our insurance and, as such, have always had the potential to become devastating to the life of an engineering firm. Please see the more in-depth explanation by Don Schinske in this newsletter.
For the last few years, SEAOC has been a partner in conjunction with other engineering associations to substantially modify the “Duty to Defend” law. This is one example of the efforts that SEAOC is making behind the scenes that are in support of our members and our profession.
More visible results of the work of SEAOC can be found in the SEAOC website at the Publications and Bookstore sites (seaoc.org). All manner of structural engineering design aids and research material are available for members to obtain. Please visit the site to see if there are existing SEAOC documents that can be of benefit to you. And stay tuned. SEAOC is plan to change over to a new, easier-to-navigate website this summer.
As you are probably aware, SEAOC has an extensive network of volunteer effort in most everything we do. We are all very thankful for the time and effort that is given by those volunteers. And rightfully so, SEAOC supports the efforts of this volunteer work by reimbursing travel and other expenses where possible.
The fruits of our efforts many times result in documents that provide benefit to our membership and the public. When required, SEAOC typically provides funds for the editing, typesetting, and publishing of these SEAOC documents. Sometimes the financial returns are positive, sometimes they are not. However, we continue to believe that the results of the work from our committees needs to be published for the benefit of our members.
I would like to also discuss some of the financial matters that the SEAOC board has been addressing for several months. While we may not think about it very often, SEAOC faces financial challenges similar to conditions that may occur in our personal and professional situations. SEAOC has been operating with deficit budgets for several years. Some years the deficits have been substantial. During this time we have strived to continue our committee structure, participation in local, state, and national code venues, and community outreach. The SEAOC Board has also been mindful of the state of the economy, and how it has affected our members. The Board has taken a hard look at the upcoming budget and has addressed all aspects of our expenses and income in an effort to develop a more sustainable and balanced budget.
On the expenses side, we are incorporating belt tightening efforts to reduce our expenditures. We are in process of making certain that we are administratively efficient and even though we are coordinating four different MOs we want to make sure that we are not duplicating efforts. For our committees, we will continue to support and encourage the energy and efforts of our committees, however we are tasking each committee to be as efficient as possible with more conference call and electronic meetings in place of some of the in-person meetings requiring travel and lodging. The SEAOC Board is following this example as well.
On the income side, we are continuing to work on producing income from the publication of SEAOC documents and production of webinars. However, over the last several years we have found that that this is a fluctuating income source. The income from these sources is positive overall but has not proved to be a consistent income source on a year to year basis.
The most reliable source of income is our dues. The SEAOC Board has always been very hesitant to raise the state dues. In fact, during the analysis of the current budget it was discovered that when the Consumer Price Index is incorporated into the time progression of the state dues, our dues in today’s dollars are substantially less than in they were in 1998. Another item of note is that since 2000, membership in SEAOC has also included a membership in NCSEA for each of our members. Some of our regional associations indicate the associated NCSEA dues amount in renewal forms, however in truth, SEAOC has absorbed the cost of the NCSEA membership without a direct pass through to our members.
As one of the methods in the effort to stabilize our budget, the SEAOC Board has agreed that an increase to the SEAOC state dues is appropriate. This dues increase will be a total of $20 per year. In order to allow flexibility to each Regional M.O. this increase has been designated to be fully incorporated within the next two years.
I and the Board believe that membership in SEAOC and in our Regional MOs remains a great benefit and a great value to every member associated with the structural engineering profession. We trust that our members will see that these efforts to make our expenses more efficient and to stabilize our income will provide a solid base for our continued work and goals to provide our members with benefits to advance their professional knowledge and provide influence to the public for the design of safe and more resilient structures.
As I have mentioned before, I encourage all of our members to take full advantage of all of the benefits that a membership in SEAOC makes available to each of you.