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July 26, 2013 — A merit-based pay raise to retain top faculty and staff members, and key technology and facility upgrades, are part of a state budget request approved by the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees today (Friday).
The university’s block grant request for the 2015-16 biennium now goes to the state Department of Administration and Information’s Budget Division and Gov. Matt Mead, who will present his state budget recommendations to the Legislature later this year for the two-year period beginning July 1, 2014.
“This budget request represents the university’s best effort to respond to the needs of the state, move ahead on key initiatives, and maintain and enhance the quality of instruction, research and service provided by the university,” UW President Bob Sternberg says. “We recognize the uncertainty surrounding state revenues in the near and long term, so we’re including only those items we see as essential to continue moving toward our goal of becoming the nation’s premier land-grant university.”
Trustees voted for a $13.3 million biennial request for employee pay raises, noting that after four years of no state funding for permanent salary adjustments, the university is losing faculty members at an accelerating rate and falling further behind average pay levels at public research universities. That amount is equivalent to a 4 percent increase for faculty and staff overall, though the raises would not be distributed across the board. They would be based on merit, taking into account specific employee performance and market salaries for specific jobs and disciplines.
The increase would be a first step toward the board’s ultimate objective of bringing employee salaries to the market average for all employee groups. The board may consider other measures to boost employee salaries in order to retain key faculty and staff members, including a modest tuition increase.
“Salary adjustments are our top budget priority,” says Board of Trustees President Dave Bostrom of Worland. “We can’t become a top-level university without top-level people to lead the way in teaching, research and service, and we won’t be able to recruit and retain those people without competitive salaries.”
UW recently learned that its standard budget has been reduced by $22.7 million for the coming biennium, rather than the $11.7 million cut required by statute for the current fiscal year. As part of that 6 percent reduction ordered by the Legislature and the governor, UW eliminated 12 faculty and 42 staff positions through attrition, along with other ongoing expenses for a total of $23.4 million. That was $11.7 million more than required, and the university’s expectation was that those resources would be reallocated internally for areas of greatest need, including a portion of a salary increase proposal. As a result of the greater-than-expected reduction in UW’s standard budget, the university must seek those resources through the state budget process.
Recognizing concerns about committing to ongoing expenditures due to the uncertainty of future state revenue streams, trustees are seeking a one-time appropriation of $20 million to establish a superior faculty endowment. Income generated by the permanent endowment, which would be matched by private gifts, would fund three-year salary augmentations for UW’s highest-performing faculty members, renewable only after successful performance reviews and demonstration of continued excellence in performance. The program would focus on select faculty members who make sustained, outstanding contributions to teaching, scholarly work and service to Wyoming and to the objectives of the university’s strategic plan.
Trustees are seeking one-time appropriations totaling $10.8 million to improve classroom infrastructure and technology for students on campus. Of that, $8 million would go toward continuation of a phased, $24 million campuswide project to upgrade classrooms in aging buildings, and $2.8 million would be used to improve and expand student wireless connections, replace computer network switches and expand the campus technology infrastructure.
In total, UW trustees approved exception budget requests for $16.56 million in recurring funding; $25.1 million in nonrecurring, or one-time, funding; and $18.4 million for capital construction projects.
Other requests for ongoing expenses are:
-- $1.3 million for operation and maintenance of UW’s Biosafety Level 3 Laboratory.
-- $1.2 million for operation and maintenance of the university’s new on-campus facilities, as well as new UW facilities in Casper, Sheridan and Riverton.
-- $727,000 for new clinical sciences faculty and staff in the medical laboratory technician program at the UW/Casper College Center so that students can earn a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences.
Other one-time and capital construction requests are:
-- $8.75 million for campus infrastructure projects, including $6 million for water infrastructure and $2.75 million for King Street improvements.
-- $2 million to upgrade Wyoming Public Media transmitters around the state.
-- $800,000 for Level 2 design of a new building for the Albany County campus of Laramie County Community College, on UW land.
-- $500,000 for a Level 2 study of renovation and expansion of the more than 40-year-old Corbett Pool, home of UW’s swimming and diving teams.
-- $350,000 for Level 2 planning for UW’s portion of the city of Laramie’s new Cirrus Sky Technology Park.
-- $200,000 for brucellosis vaccine research.
UW also is asking for the release of $7.9 million of a previous appropriation to cover Level 2 and 3 design costs and to prepare construction documents for a major upgrade of facilities for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.