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Gov. Matt Mead has recommended funding to retain top University of Wyoming faculty and staff members, operating and planning dollars for UW’s Science Initiative, and matching funds for academics and athletics.
The governor’s supplemental budget recommendations for the 2015-16 fiscal year also include support for a UW outreach program, developed in cooperation with Wyoming’s community colleges. It will allow nurses with associate’s degrees to pursue registered nursing bachelor’s degrees without coming to Laramie.
The governor’s recommendations, which now go to the Legislature for consideration during its 2015 general session, closely follow the supplemental budget request forwarded in August by the UW Board of Trustees.
“We deeply appreciate the governor’s support of the university,” UW President Dick McGinity says. “His recommendations demonstrate a clear recognition of our top priorities in addressing UW’s key opportunities and challenges at mid-biennium. We hope these investments will remain through the legislative process.”
The governor recommended UW’s request for $1 million annually in recurring dollars to allow the university to retain top faculty and staff members through targeted salary increases. That amount would supplement an expected $2 million generated by a tuition increase in the 2015-16 academic year, along with a $4.2 million state appropriation from the 2014 legislative session, to address UW employee compensation in the next fiscal year.
“The combination of state appropriations and tuition revenues would allow us to make a good first step in addressing our compensation issues,” McGinity says. “Pay levels for UW faculty and staff are well below market levels, and it will take a succession of annual increases for us to begin to catch up. With revenues from both the state and the tuition increase, we’ll have a much better chance of retaining our top performers and recruiting excellent talent.”
The governor also followed the recommendations of the Wyoming Governor’s Top-Tier Science Programs & Facilities Task Force by proposing $750,000 annually in recurring dollars to begin programmatic improvements connected with UW’s Science Initiative. The first phase of that initiative, which promises to transform science education at UW and across the state, also includes an estimated $103 million in one-time construction and planning costs for a new building located between UW’s Biological Sciences Building and Physical Sciences Building. The governor recommends $3 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year to begin planning for the building, which would contain studio-style classrooms to facilitate active learning, along with state-of-the-art research centers in scientific imaging and biological research.
UW’s requests for state funding to match private contributions received support from the governor. He recommends $20 million in matching funds for research into unconventional oil and gas resources, involving the School of Energy Resources and the College of Engineering and Applied Science; $5 million for a public-private entrepreneurship initiative in the College of Business; and $2.5 million to match additional private giving for UW’s new Literacy Research Center and Clinic in the College of Education.
Likewise, the governor recommends $4 million to match private donations to UW’s Department of Athletics to enhance the competitiveness of UW’s intercollegiate athletics programs. That’s on top of a $2 million appropriation in the last legislative session, which the governor recommends changing to a dollar-for-dollar matching program. The university is preparing to respond to expected changes in NCAA regulations regarding student-athlete scholarships and benefits, in addition to enhancing recruiting and nutritional and other services to student-athletes.
UW’s competitiveness in athletics also would be enhanced by the proposed construction of a High Altitude Sports Performance Training Center, a major expansion of the Rochelle Athletics Center. The governor recommends $20 million to match private contributions for the project, which was not part of UW’s supplemental budget request.
Other items in the governor’s supplemental budget recommendations for UW include:
-- $830,000 to help cover higher-than-expected costs for the High Bay Research Facility, construction of which is scheduled to begin in spring 2015 on the east part of campus. The governor also recommends transferring $4 million already appropriated for Engineering Building upgrades to the High Bay Research Facility project, reflecting the incorporation of a structures laboratory in the High Bay building instead of the Engineering Building.
-- $805,746 in annual recurring dollars to support the Revolutionizing Nursing Education in Wyoming (ReNEW) program, which will allow nurses around the state to pursue bachelor’s degrees. The request provides for, among other things, the hiring of eight new faculty members to be located at each community college in the state.
-- $375,000 in recurring funding annually to cover increased maintenance and utilities costs for new facilities at UW, including the Energy Innovation Center, the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility and the High Bay Research Facility. The university had requested $750,000.
-- $250,000 in one-time funding to begin planning to acquire and equip a new UW research aircraft. UW had requested $500,000.
-- $125,000 in recurring funding annually for personnel and materials to assure environmental health and safety as a result of the increasing sophistication of technology and research in new UW buildings. UW had requested $250,000.
The governor did not recommend UW’s request for $1 million to address information technology needs on campus, though he does support UW’s use of $1.5 million already appropriated for that purpose without matching the amount with other university resources.
And while the governor declined UW’s request for just under $200,000 annually to restart the master’s degree program in counselor education at UW-Casper, he indicated possible support in the 2016 budget session.
“All in all, this is an extremely favorable set of gubernatorial recommendations for the university. We now look forward to working with legislators to demonstrate the soundness of these requests and answer any of their questions,” McGinity says. “We’re proud and thankful for the support we receive from the citizens of Wyoming and our elected officials, and we pledge to do everything we can to deliver opportunities for students, prepare a workforce for the future, serve the state’s citizens and conduct research to help drive the state’s economy.”