Some Progress Made on
State Budget Appropriation
When UConn's budget was voted out of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Appropriations last week, the news was mixed: a significant amount of funding has been added back to the governor's proposed budget, but the total is still less than current services.
"While progress has clearly been made, we have some distance to travel," President Philip E. Austin said. "We are grateful for the support of the committee and its co-chairs and the legislative leadership and we appreciate the hard work of our many supporters across the state, but our efforts must continue."
Austin said State Sen. Kevin Sullivan (D-West Hartford) and State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge), a UConn alumnus and former UConn trustee, assisted by State Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, were standouts among a large group of legislators who worked hard to obtain the funding for UConn. This is a particularly large challenge occurring in an environment where the state's budget cap has restricted spending on a long list of needs.
The biennial state budget approved by the Appropriations Committee included about $15.8 million added back to the Storrs-based programs for the FY '02-'03 biennium, and about $6.5 million added back to the Health Center budget for the same period.
The budget bill now must be acted upon by both the legislature's House and Senate by June 6, the close of the General Assembly's session. Negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor are expected to occur prior to final legislative action and are likely to produce changes to what the Appropriations Committee approved.
UConn's analysis of the budget suggests that even with the add-backs, the appropriations for the Storrs-based programs and the Health Center are below current services, the level necessary to provide for inflation on existing programs, according to Lorraine Aronson, vice president for financial planning and management.
Aronson noted that the University's analysis of current services differs from one done by the state's Office of Policy and Management. She said the recommendation for the Storrs-based programs also does not include additional funding to support enrollment growth and expansion of regional campus programs. Those costs could further erode the impact of the state appropriation. The Health Center funding includes no funding for the strategic or research plans in FY '02 and limited funding in FY '03.
"UConn is achieving its strategic goals. We are in the sixth year of the UConn 2000 program that continues dramatically to improve our campuses, and we continue our progress in attracting high achieving and diverse freshmen classes. We are having dramatic success in raising private funds," Austin said. "We must emphasize that the University needs support not only- at a minimum - for current services, but also for our strategic initiatives. The University of Connecticut represents the best investment the state can make to sustain Connecticut's quality of life and economic vitality. This is a case we must continue to make."
Karen A. Grava