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Final Budget Package Holds Mixed News For University

By Richard Veilleux - July 18, 2005

State legislators last month passed a budget package for the 2005-07 biennium that includes $5.1 million less than the University’s current services request for Storrs-based programs, and about $1.1 million less than the Health Center’s request.

Despite the shortfall, the final package offered some good news for the University.

“What was approved for the University this fiscal year came closer to our current services request than at any time in the recent past,” University President Philip E. Austin told the Board of Trustees during a budget workshop in June. “Still, the pattern of reduced state support as a portion of our overall operating budget continues – it was 50 percent of the budget for Storrs-based programs in fiscal year 1992, down to 35.2 percent for fiscal 2006 – though at a decreased pace.”

The $205.2 million state appropriation for Storrs-based programs in fiscal year 2006 was $1.3 million less than University officials requested for current services – the amount of money needed to offer the same programs and services next year as in the fiscal year that just ended, plus inflation. For fiscal year 2007, the gap widens, with a state appropriation of $213 million falling $3.8 million below the current services request. The current services requests at the Health Center were underfunded by $440,000 in fiscal year 2006, and $700,000 in fiscal year 2007.

Legislators also failed to fund UConn’s request for 150 new faculty and 80 new staff members during the next five years, as the General Assembly struggled to fund a host of programs. Other budget items that impact the University also sustained cuts, including the Department of Correction’s health services request. The Health Center provides comprehensive health care services to the state’s inmates.

Although disappointed, Austin said the University will continue to improve the quality of students’ educational experience, targeting resources to strengthen the academic program while ensuring that students study and live on a safe, attractive, and technologically advanced campus.

In particular, Austin said officials would address course coverage through combinations of tenure-track, in-residence, and adjunct faculty who will be allocated to areas of greatest demand; reallocation of resources to provide more writing-intensive and quantitative-intensive class sections; development of a Learning Resources Center to help students in specific academic areas; and continued implementation of facets of the new general education requirements. At the Health Center, he said, support will continue to flow to its signature programs.

During the Trustees budget meeting, the board approved a total University operating budget of $1.4 billion for the 2005-06 fiscal year, of which about $800 million is for the Storrs-based programs. Revenues include, in addition to state appropriations, nearly $250 million from tuition and fees, revenues from auxiliary enterprises (including sales and services, including ticket sales at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts and the Division of Athletics, and payments to Health Services and Dining Services), grants, payment for clinical services at the Health Center, and a number of other sources.

For the Storrs-based programs, the biggest challenge will be in the 2006-07 academic year, when the state appropriation falls nearly $4 million short of current services. Combined with the shortfall, says Austin, is the fact that growth in the undergraduate population is expected to peak in the 2006-07 academic year, despite officials’ restricting the size of incoming classes to about 3,200 students a year in Storrs for five consecutive years. After that year, overall undergraduate enrollment should plateau.

Following a series of negotiations, legislators also agreed to continue the matching gift program, but in a significantly diluted form. Major changes include a revised state match of $1 for every $4 raised, half the previous match, and a requirement that the state’s rainy day fund be at an amount equivalent to 10 percent of the state’s operating budget before the state can appropriate any matching grant.

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