Gilmore Budget Bill Could Affect Higher-Education Funding
By Ralph Byers, director of
Former Governor George Allen released his budget recommendations for the 1998-2000 biennium on December 19. Allen's capital outlay recommendations were very positive for higher education, totaling $322 million. Virginia Tech received $25 million for the chemistry/physics building, and $1 million in planning funds for an Agriculture/Forestry research building.
(Editor's note: Please see accompanying budget charts on page 7.)
The recommendations for operating expenses were somewhat less than the $400 million proposed by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) or the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV). Allen recommended faculty salary increases, some increases for inflation, and a $25-million-per-year fund that is allocated among institutions on the basis of performance measures.
Virginia Tech would receive $4 million per year of these funds, which are designated to be used only for programs that improve academic quality. Virginia Tech and George Mason University received the largest allocations in this category.
However, newly inaugurated Governor Jim Gilmore has submitted a budget bill that would delay implementation of performance funding until the second year of the biennium to obtain revenues to pay for the elimination of the personal-property tax on automobiles with values under $20,000. Virginia Tech's $4 million for 1998-1999 is now in question, depending on the actions of the General Assembly.
Faculty salaries for Virginia Tech were recommended at 4.1 percent. This figure is less than the 6 percent per year calculated to bring our faculty salaries to the 60th percentile, and the university will be seeking an adjustment to the 6 percent figure. Classified staff would receive 2.25 percent in each year of the biennium, along with performance bonuses of up to 4 percent.
The introduced budget included funds to continue the tuition freeze for in-state students. However, Allen recommended only $5 million for financial aid across the system. The goal of SCHEV and the VBHEC is to fund one-half of every student's financial need; the current recommendation will fill only 35 percent of remaining need, even with the tuition freeze in effect. Approximately $27 million per year would be necessary to fully fund half of remaining need.
In all, Allen recommended $181 million for two years for operating funds; $51 million of these funds would come from tuition and other non-state sources. If the General Assembly approves, this amount will be reduced by $25 million by Gilmore, along with other reductions in faculty salary increases in some institutions.
Institutions will be requesting the General Assembly to help them move closer to the VBHEC goal of $400 million for the biennium through a unified budget amendment.
Allen did not recommend additional funding for the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station Division. The university had requested an increase of $2.36 million each year of the biennium to fund "The Plan to Serve Virginia's Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resources." The university will be requesting this funding through the budget amendment process.
For more information, contact the Office of Government Relations at 1-7111.