March 24-30, 2000
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U.Va. gives passing grades to 2000 General Assembly

By Dan Heuchert

The General Assembly adjourned March 10 after a session that produced mostly positive results for the University and its employees.

The final two-year budget crafted by a House-Senate conference committee, adopted by the legislature and forwarded to Gov. James Gilmore, provides for faculty salary increases of 4.6 percent, classified raises of 3.25 percent, and increases of 3 percent for graduate teaching assistants and part-time, administrative and professional faculty. The raises will be partially funded through a 2 percent increase in graduate, professional school and out-of-state undergraduate tuition.

 

"The arts at the University of Virginia have needed new facilities for many years. We are particularly grateful that the Assembly's extraordinary support will make possible the cornerstone building for a larger arts complex to be developed over the next several years."

John P. Ackerly III
Rector, U.Va. Board of Visitors

The budget also included language implementing the overhaul of the classified compensation system. It doubled the state's maximum matching contribution to the deferred compensation plan to $40 per month for participating employees (who must contribute at least $80 to receive the full match).

Gilmore has until midnight April 10 to take action on legislation passed by the General Assembly, which will reconvene April 19 for its annual veto-override session. He may veto line items in the budget bill.

The legislators rewrote Gilmore's proposal for performance-based financing of higher education institutions, which were based upon the recommendations of his Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education. He had sought to create six-year "institutional performance agreements" linking funding above an agreed-upon base budget to various performance measures negotiated between the colleges and the state. The process was to begin this summer, with the first agreements taking effect in July 2001.

The legislative rewrite slowed the process and left it somewhat vague, pending the report of the Joint Subcommittee on Higher Education Funding Policies. It also broke the process down into three separate pieces.

First, colleges and universities are to submit to the state by Oct. 15 a progress report on their current strategic plans. Based upon those reports, the Secretary of Education is to recommend to the 2001 General Assembly which institutions should be considered for developing performance agreements. It left unclear the process and timetable for developing those agreements.

Second, the legislators directed SCHEV to develop and publish annual institutional report cards for the state's public colleges and universities.

Finally, the legislature launched a task force to examine decentralization at the state's colleges and universities, with the aim of providing "greater operational autonomy ... while maintaining appropriate post-audit and reporting procedures" in several specified areas. The task force is to report by Dec. 1.

With future funding formulas still in flux, the budget process for the current year operated under the old rules, with the University making its requests, the governor including or excluding them from his proposed budget, and the legislature then making its own modifications.

In its top-priority operating budget request, the University originally asked for $25.2 million, including $14.2 million in general-fund money, over the biennium to support the Integrated Systems Project. Gilmore did not include funding in his proposed budget, but the Assembly restored $10.95 million, including $3.5 million in taxpayer funds.

The Assembly also added $4.15 million to reimburse doctors for providing indigent care at the University Medical Center, listed as U.Va.'s No. 3 priority. The University had requested $15.4 million, which Gilmore did not include in his proposal.

The University's second priority, $11.35 million to set up new research labs in order to recruit faculty members in the sciences, received support from neither Gilmore nor the legislature.

The Assembly modified Gilmore's proposed $20 million "Technology Competitiveness Fund," which was designed to support research in cutting-edge fields. The legislature renamed the program the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund, slashed state support to $13 million, and required institutions to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for fund grants. It also limited eligible research to several specific fields.

As for building projects, the University was able to secure $9 million in state funds to construct a new studio art building, plus $400,000 to continue planning the renovation of Fayerweather Hall. Both projects are priorities of University President John T. Casteen III's Virginia 2020 Commission on the Fine and Performing Arts.

"We are very pleased that the General Assembly appreciated the urgency of this budget request," said Rector John P. Ackerly III. "The arts at the University of Virginia have needed new facilities for many years. We are particularly grateful that the Assembly's extraordinary support will make possible the cornerstone building for a larger arts complex to be developed over the next several years."

The budget also restores funding for the Peabody Hall renovation project; supplies nearly $13.4 million for the maintenance reserve fund, the University's top capital budget priority; and provides almost $2 million for a central Grounds water chilling plant. It includes authorization to spend non-general funds on several projects, including: the Darden School expansion ($40 million), a concert hall ($25 million), phase I of the Groundswalk ($8.5 million), planning for a new academic and research building ($8 million), renovation and an addition to the Miller Center of Public Affairs ($7.5 million), phase II of the Aquatics & Fitness Center ($5 million), planning for a new Arts & Sciences building ($3 million), and the Law School expansion ($1 million).

Not all of the legislation that will affect the University was budget-related.

The Assembly approved measures to implement a new retirement plan for the Medical Center, which will be mandatory for employees hired after July 1 and optional for all others; gave the Board of Visitors new flexibility in investing endowment funds; conveyed the Blue Ridge Hospital property to the U.Va. Real Estate Foundation for development into a research park and Monticello visitor's center; and allowed the Board of Visitors to continue to conduct some meetings over the telephone.

One bill that won particular attention was a measure authored by Sen. Emily Couric (D-Charlottesville) that allowed the state to donate surplus computer equipment to public schools or charitable organizations that provide services to the disabled, at-risk youths and low-income families. The bill sailed through both houses unanimously.

The law takes effect July 1. Procurement Services will prepare policies and procedures before then.


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© Copyright 2000 by the Rector and Visitors
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