May 28-June 10, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 10
Back Issues
Finals Weekend 2004
Miksad to leave deanship
Wadley named 2004 inventor of the year
Headlines @ U.Va.
General Assembly roundup
Smackdown your vote
College strikes a high-tech deal with Microsoft and Thomson Learning
A Childhood Dream Come True
A Day in the Life
University’s busiest gym to debut new addition
The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Career You Want
Ring CMC telethon phones for 20th year
Museum having 30th birthday party
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 several weeks of extended debate over raising taxes contains two major boosts for the University: a 3 percent, Thanksgiving-time raise for faculty and staff, and a substantial boost to the University’s base operating budget — which could mean even more money for faculty.

The 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 16.

Pay increases coming

Faculty and staff will see a 3 percent, Thanksgiving-time raise.

Also planned: an additional 2 percent, merit-based salary increase for faculty, and $250,000 to address market and retention needs of classified staff.

Warner’s 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 conference committee provides 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 University’s vice 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 the outcome.

“The 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. The committee 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 June.

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 an addition to McLeod Hall, home of the School of Nursing; and a $17.5 million down payment on the estimated $50 million needed to modify the University’s coal-burning central heating plant.

Not all the news was good. U.Va. sought $15 million to fund a maintenance reserve; the budget contained less than a third of 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 University’s autonomy in setting tuition rates and the proportion of out-of-state students.

Legislators 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 make up 25 percent or more of their undergraduate enrollment; U.Va. draws about 32 percent of its students from outside the Commonwealth’s borders.

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 were 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, however.

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 per week. The bill affects more than 200 employees at the University.

The catch, though, is that those affected will be required to pay the entire premium, which U.Va.’s Human 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 first step.”

“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 that people 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 that created the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, intended to centralize the coordination of information technology in the state. That legislation, however, unintentionally superceded other “codified autonomy” measures that applied to the University Medical Center. The measure was amended this year to exempt the Medical Center from VITA’s oversight.


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