Legislative Committees Recommend Salary Increases, More SupportBy Ralph Byers, director of government relations
Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 19 - February 6, 1997
On Sunday, Feb. 3, the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees released their respective recommendations for amendments to the budget proposed by Governor George Allen in December.
Each committee provided roughly $30 million in additional higher-education funding for 1997-98. Although differing in certain respects, both committees increased funding for faculty and staff salaries and provided some operating and capital-outlay support for colleges and universities.
Both House and Senate recommended an average faculty salary increase across the system of 5 percent. This will continue the program initiated last year to return institutions to the 60th percentile of their peer groups over four years. For Virginia Tech, the increase will be 6 percent for teaching and research faculty and 4 percent for administrative and professional faculty and graduate assistants. For classified staff, the House recommended a 3-percent salary increase; the Senate, 4 percent.
The system-wide cost of the faculty salary increases was approximately $18million, leaving only a modest amount to spread among the institutions for operating support. The House recommended a total of $250,000 in General Fund support for the university division, and $950,000 for the Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station division. The Senate recommended $200,000 for the latter, and $559,000 for operating support in the university division The Senate also recommended $100,000 for the Water Resources Center, $30,000 for minority scholarships in agriculture, and $100,000 to be administered by Virginia Tech for the proposed Roanoke Higher Education Center.
Overall, Virginia Tech received about $5 million of the roughly $30-million increase recommended by each committee.
In capital outlay, the Senate recommended $2.5 million for the proposed Advanced Communications and Information Technology facility. This was the largest single state-funded capital-outlay appropriation recommended for higher education by either committee. On the House side, the recommendation was $500,000, which was the highest General Fund amount recommended for facilities by the Appropriations Committee.
Both committees approved the non-General Fund capital requests of the university for upper-quad planning, telecommunications upgrades to residence halls, an addition to Cheatham Hall, an expanded airport runway, and the athletic facility addition.
Both committees adopted the lag-pay proposal described earlier in Spectrum. Under this plan, pay days will remain on the first and sixteenth of each month, and employees will experience no reduction in salary in the transition to a one-week lag between time worked and pay date. The committees also took steps to ensure the fiscal health of the Key Advantage system without a premium increase for state employees. The financial condition of Key Advantage will be studied over the coming year.
The recommendations of the two committees will go to their respective chambers for approval by February 6. Then a conference committee from each body will be appointed to iron out differences between the two sets of recommendations. The conference committee is scheduled to finish its work no later than midnight, February 18; the General Assembly will conclude this year's session on February 22.