General Assembly roundup|
Good things come to those who wait, and wait, and wait
By Dan Heuchert
For U.Va., it was a budget that was worth the wait.
The compromise two-year budget that finally emerged from
the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly after
weeks of extended debate over raising taxes contains two
major boosts for the University: a 3 percent, Thanksgiving-time
for faculty and staff, and a substantial boost to the University’s
base operating budget — which could mean even more money
legislature formerly approved the compromise budget plan on
May 7. Gov. Mark Warner
may still request modifications, which the General Assembly
will take up at its reconvened session June
|Pay increases coming
Faculty and staff will see a 3 percent, Thanksgiving-time
Also planned: an additional 2 percent, merit-based salary
increase for faculty, and $250,000 to address market and
retention needs of classified staff.
original December budget proposal called only for the possibility
of a raise for faculty and staff late in
2005 — and then only if state revenues met
certain targets. The plan that emerged from the joint
for a 3 percent increase effective Nov. 25, 2004,
plus an additional 2 percent one year later.
Likewise, Warner’s December budget provided for a $665,000
increase over the next two years in the state’s current
$120.6 million contribution to the University’s
base operating budget. Legislators boosted that figure
to $3.8 million in 2004-2005
and $7.5 million the following year.
“That’s a huge increase,” said Colette Sheehy, the
president for management and budget.
Although the funds are undesignated, they came with
language attached suggesting that the money be
used to “serve more
students, retain existing students more effectively, increase
the number of students receiving a degree or certificate, and
enhance the quality and rigor of its academic programs,” and
directing the state secretary of education to monitor
focus is clearly on instructional areas,” Sheehy said.
At its May 25 meeting, the Board of Visitors’ Finance Committee
approved a plan to supplement the state’s 3 percent
raise with a 2 percent, merit-based increase for faculty.
also set aside $250,000 to address the market and retention
needs of classified staff.
The full board is expected to approve the measures — and
the rest of the 2004-2005 University budget — in
Even with the state’s additional base-budget funding, its
total contribution to the University’s budget is expected
to remain at its current 8.1 percent, Sheehy said, since other
sources of funding — including tuition and research support — are
also projected to grow.
The budget also contained taxpayer funding
for two capital projects: $6 million for
home of the School
of Nursing; and a $17.5 million down payment
on the estimated $50 million needed to modify
central heating plant.
Not all the news was good. U.Va. sought $15
million to fund a maintenance reserve;
the budget contained
than a third
that amount, which Sheehy identified as “probably the biggest
disappointment” of the legislative session. Legislators
also deferred for a year approximately $2 million in
additional research funding.
There were also new measures to limit the
autonomy in setting tuition rates and the proportion of out-of-state
will now approve a ceiling on the total amount of revenue that
tuition will be expected to provide, without
setting specific limits on increases
for either in-state or out-of-state students as long as they
don’t exceed that ceiling.
Meanwhile, the budget freezes out-of-state
enrollment at current levels for schools
in which non-Virginians
up 25 percent
or more of their undergraduate enrollment;
U.Va. draws about 32 percent of its
students from outside
The main higher education focus going
into the session was U.Va.’s
bid — along with Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary — to
forge a new, more autonomous relationship with the state.
In exchange for budget concessions, the three universities
seeking more control over their own affairs.
The “chartered universities” initiative, which received
cautious praise from many quarters, was one of the budget crisis’ first
victims, to be carried over until the 2005 session. The
legislature did form a committee to study the proposal,
There was one piece of non-budgetary
good news: legislators approved
a long-sought measure
to provide health
benefits to employees
who work between 20 and 31 hours
The bill affects more than 200
employees at the University.
The catch, though, is that those
affected will be required to
pay the entire
Resources department estimates will cost about $300 monthly
for single employees and
more than $800 per month for family coverage.
Advocates for the measure pronounced
the plan a “good
“The General Faculty Council has had that as one of its goals
since its inception, which
was back in 1993,” said past
chairwoman Lotta Lofgren. “We think it’s
a wonderful step in the right direction, but it is unfortunate
have to pay the full premium themselves.”
Anda Webb, a member of the
Women’s Leadership Council,
which also has pushed for part-time benefits, agreed. “Financially,
that could be a burden on someone who is working part-time.”
The lawmakers also clarified
a measure passed in 2003
the coordination of information
technology in the state.
That legislation, however,
autonomy” measures that applied to the University Medical
Center. The measure was amended this year to exempt the Medical
Center from VITA’s oversight.