Raises unlikely, layoffs possible
By Matt Kelly
legislators painted a bleak budget picture as they listened to
constituents at the Universitys annual legislative forum,
held Jan. 4 in Newcomb Hall.
opening remarks, U.Va. President
John T. Casteen III noted that this year marks the first time
in his adult life that the General Assembly would wrestle with
a budget deficit. Legislators must close a $1.2 billion hole in
the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Sen.-elect Creigh Deeds, elected last month to fill the unexpired
term of the late Emily Couric, predicted a difficult session.
He charged that outgoing Gov. Jim Gilmore had proposed a political
budget for the 2002-04 biennium that incoming Gov.-elect
Mark Warner and legislators on both sides of the aisle are preparing
will have to be written again from fresh cloth, Deeds said.
noted that state agency heads were looking at the possibility
of cutting jobs, and legislators could not realistically commit
to any new spending, despite pressure to do so.
that vein, Del.-elect Rob B. Bell III read a list of causes and
agencies that have approached him in recent weeks, asking for
noted that the University weathered the last recession without
layoffs by hiking tuition. Now, he said, Gilmore has proposed
lifting the freeze on in-state tuition, but with the additional
money flowing to the state instead of the University.
Del. Mitch Van Yahres said that the legislature needs to fund
pay increases for state workers, although he later acknowledged
that the money may not be there. Apart from budget issues, he
listed as priorities examining the Standards of Learning tests,
which 11th-graders will soon need to pass in order to graduate,
and health care for children, saying the states current
program to provide insurance coverage for the children of working
poor is wasting federal money.
a graduate of the College
of Arts & Sciences and Law
School, said he wants to keep U.Va. a world-class university,
but warned that with a budget deficit, maintaining level funding
would be a godsend. He said he favored issuing bonds
to fund construction because that would spread payments out and
take advantage of the states favorable bond rating.
echoed Van Yahres concern about the SOLs, noting that Virginias
plan must be aligned with federal regulations that call for testing
every year. The state must also determine what to do with students
who fail the final tests, which must be passed in order to receive
a high school diploma.
for the legislators covered a wide spectrum. Chuck Callahan of
expressed concern over Gilmores proposed 50 percent cuts
in maintenance funding. Van Yahres agreed, saying part of U.Va.s
uniqueness was its historic buildings. Bell noted that cutting
maintenance now may lead to larger costs in the future, and Deeds
declared the cut unacceptable.
McIvor, who said he spoke as a private citizen, chastised legislators
for not fully funding the states new classified pay plan.
Van Yahres agreed in principle, saying the plan should have been
funded, but noted that the state is out of money. While state
employees deserve a raise, he warned that in the coming session
some agencies and programs may be eliminated.
the forum, Van Yahres said legislators understood the pay plan
should have been funded, but did not create a mechanism for it.
The funding, he said, fell victim to the scaling back of the states
library supervisor complained about the new, three-tier evaluation
system that is part of the new classified pay system, saying it
did not give managers enough latitude in rewarding employees.
It divides employees into three categories pass,
fail, or walks on water, she said.
Phillips asked about the $45 million Tuition Assistance Grant
program, which provides aid to students attending private Virginia
colleges, specifically asking if it might become needs-based.
The legislators noted the TAG programs popularity. Van Yahres
said its purpose is to relieve pressure from public universities
to increase in-state enrollment.
Wilson, a Curry
School student and the student member of the Board of Visitors,
said students are concerned about an increase in tuition, particularly
if the increased revenues flow to the state instead of colleges.
Van Yahres said that any tuition hikes should be coupled with
more financial aid. Bell said any tuition increase should stay
with the school.