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Governor’s budget mixed news for UConn

by Richard Veilleux - February 12, 2007

Gov. M. Jodi Rell last week announced a budget package for the 2008-09 biennium that funds the University at about current service levels but eliminates two programs created by the legislature in 2006 to boost the state’s economy.

It fails to address the Health Center’s $20 million academic gap over the biennium and the need for additional faculty for Storrs-based programs.

In addition, the budget that was delivered to legislators and University officials on Feb. 7 calls for the deferment of $90 million from the third phase of the UConn 2000 program, then restores the money in 2016, a year after the program was originally scheduled to end.

Rell added $25 million to state-funded need-based financial aid programs for students attending Connecticut’s public and private universities.

About $4 million of the total is expected to be allocated to UConn.

The extra funding will allow the University to offer scholarships of nearly $2,000 to about 2,100 additional students.

Funding is not included for a University request to begin adding 175 new faculty during the next five years to keep up with a growing student population.

“It’s essentially a status-quo budget,” says Lori Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer.

“Both the Storrs-based programs and the Health Center received enough funding to keep up with inflation, but there are still large gaps in the budget that will have to be addressed, particularly at the Health Center.”

Overall, Rell has recommended a 2008 budget of about $222 million for the Storrs-based programs and $80.5 million for the Health Center.

In 2009, Rell proposed a $224.4 million budget for the Storrs-based programs, and an $82 million package for the Health Center.

The largest gap is at the Health Center, where officials had requested $20 million over the next two years to cover a shortfall known as the academic gap – the difference between what it takes to fund the medical and dental schools and the amount the state appropriates to the University.

For the past five years, officials have funded the gap with revenues from the John Dempsey Hospital, but that option is no longer feasible, says Aronson, with Medicare and Medicaid programs not covering the actual cost of medicine, and federal grant programs facing cutbacks.

“Without assistance to cover the academic gap, our reliance on hospital funds to support the medical and dental schools will continue, and this could mean ongoing deficits, unless there are significant changes in hospital patient care reimbursement,” Aronson says.

In Storrs, two programs approved by the legislature last year to serve as engines for the state’s economy – the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Eminent Faculty Program – were deleted from the governor’s budget.

The entrepreneurship program was designed to develop a program to train faculty and student inventors in commercialization, business development, and venture capital.

The center also would have established an intellectual property law clinic.

The eminent faculty program was designed to bring top faculty in the fields of science and technology to Connecticut to work on research that would develop products that could be transferred to the state’s businesses and enhance the state’s economy.

UConn officials had sought approval for an expansion of the eminent faculty program in the new budget.

The governor’s overall budget proposal now goes to the state legislature, where it will be debated, altered and, eventually, adopted.  

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