By Ralph Byers, director of government relations
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 22 - February 26, 1998
The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees released their funding recommendations for the 1998-2000 biennium on Sunday, Feb. 22. Both the Senate and House indicated their intentions to restore funding for higher education to the extent possible given available revenue.
For Virginia Tech, both the House and Senate recommended faculty salary increases of 5.8 percent to continue progress to the 60th percentile, instead of the 4.1 percent recommended in the governor's budget. This requires $1.1 million in the first year of the biennium and $3.1 million in the second. Both committees included $654,000 for the biennium to include Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station salaries in the 5.8-percent increase.
Classified employee salary recommendations are somewhat different in the two reports. The Senate recommended adoption of an Employee Incentive Pay Plan in 1998-99, which would add an average of 4.1 percent to the compensation of state employees. Under this plan, employees in the "meets expectations" category would receive 2.3 percent; "exceeds expectations," 4.6 percent; and "exceptional," 6.9 percent. Employees termed "fair" or "does not meet expectations" would receive no increase. In the House, on the other hand, the recommendation is for a 2.25 percent increase for all employees rated "meets expectations" or better, and a 1.25 percent across the board increase for all employees. The House would implement the Employee Incentive Pay Plan in the second year of the biennium.
In other funding for the university, the Equipment Trust Fund was increased from $8 million for the biennium to $14 million by both committees. Both committees also included language authorizing all institutions to implement a technology fee for students, not to exceed $1.50 per credit hour. For Virginia Tech, the amount authorized is $1.2 million per year. Both committees included planning funds for the dairy-science complex, as well as approval of two requested non-general fund projects, planning for the new alumni center and a building-construction learning laboratory.
There are significant differences between the two reports in other areas. At the state level, the House recommended an additional $6.8 million for student financial aid, while the Senate recommended $2.0 million.
In amendments specific to the university, the Senate recommended $3 million in technology operating support for the biennium, while the House recommended $1.5 million. The House also recommended $550,000 for instructional technology. The Senate recommended $1 million for biotechnology, and another $300,000 for transgenic-tobacco field trials. The Senate also recommended $50,000 towards the restoration of Solitude; $50,000 for the Reynolds Homestead; $100,000 for the Water Resources Research Center; and $150,000 for scholarships for under-represented students in agriculture and related disciplines.
The House recommended $100,000 for the Water Resources Center; $50,000 for a geographic alliance; and a reduction of $380,000 in funding for satellite transponder costs. For the Cooperative Extension/Agricultural Experiment Station Division, the House recommended $2.4 million for the biennium, and the Senate, $400,000.
In other action in the past week, the House of Delegates passed a bill authorizing a General Obligation Bond referendum for $210 million in capital projects for higher education. Included in this bill is $35.2 million for Virginia Tech: $33.7 million to complete the Upper Quad project and $1.5 million for the dairy facility. If this bill passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor Jim Gilmore, the bonds will be on the ballot at the November election.
The House and Senate will vote on these committee reports today. Then a conference committee will be appointed to resolve differences between the two bodies. The conference committee must compete its work by midnight, March 10.