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  June 11, 2001

Budget Still Undecided
Other Legislation Passed Affecting UConn

At press time, the state's budget for the upcoming biennium was still in draft form, and the University is hopeful that the General Assembly will restore UConn's and the Health Center's appropriations to current services levels.

In press reports, restoration of UConn's budget has been identified both as a core Democratic priority, and an add-back that has bi-partisan support. The state's budget situation remains complex: sales tax revenue is down, income tax revenue is up, and the state's budget has come close to exceeding the cap on expenditures.

The Legislature's 2001 session expired by law last Wednesday at midnight, without the General Assembly approving a budget. At press time on Thursday, press reports were indicating that the Democratic leadership had already cut more than $220 million from the levels approved by the Appropriations Committee for the biennial budget. UConn supporters are working to ensure that the University's budget will not be a part of that cut.

"We have enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle," said Scott Brohinsky, director of communications. "We are grateful both to the leadership and to the rank-and-file members of the General Assembly for their support."

Brohinsky said effective assistance was provided by the UConn Advocates, led by Patrick Sheehan, an alumnus. The group includes the Alumni Association, the UConn Foundation, the American Association of University Professors, the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association, and the University of Connecticut Health Professionals. These organizations came together to help the University make a strong case for UConn's budgets through personal contact, e-mail, op-eds, letters to the editor, and letters to legislators.

"This special session is an unusual circumstance that will create pressure to reduce further state support," Brohinsky said, noting that the University is continuing its efforts to avoid any reduction to the level approved by the Appropriations Committee for UConn.

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.

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. The Appropriations Committee's recommendation for the Storrs-based programs 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 Committee's funding for the Health Center includes no dollars for the strategic or research plans in FY '02 and limited funding in FY '03. The Health Center's John Dempsey Hospital hopes to see some financial benefit from proposed changes to the Medicaid rate structure.

Matching Grant Program
From the University's perspective, one of the most significant pieces of legislation approved this session by the General Assembly extends and expands UConn's program that provides matching grants for gifts to endowment, said Alvin Wilson, director of government relations.

"The University's dramatic success in raising private funds has been noted and appreciated by legislators," he said. "The legislation is a statement of confidence in the University by the legislators and a sign of their on-going commitment to seeing the margin of excellence provided by a public-private partnership."

The legislation provides UConn with an additional $115 million in matching endowment funds and extends the legislation through 2014. The program matches donors' gifts to endowment with $1 for every $2 privately contributed.

The program began with the authorization of $20 million as part of the UConn 2000 legislation, which has already been extended with $52.5 million. If all of the funds are used through 2014, the program will be worth more than $187 million to the University.

"This legislation is vitally important to the University as we continue to make significant progress in addressing our capital campaign," said Edward T. Allenby, vice president for institutional advancement. "It is a tremendous inducement to donors to have their gifts to endowment grow by half with the state match, and has been one of the factors in our ability to attract significant individual and corporate gifts that have helped to make our campaign a success thus far."

The $300 million campaign, formally announced last month, is already half way to its goal. The state match, while not counted towards the campaign's goals, is an important factor in leveraging private donations.

The legislation authorizing the extension of the matching grant program also permits a five-year trial offering of the Ed.D. degree at the Connecticut State University system, the first time a doctorate program will be offered at a public university other than UConn.

A number of other initiatives have been approved by the General Assembly and await the governor's signature including:

  • Health Center Board of Directors: The Board of Trustees would be allowed to create a Board of Directors for the UConn Health Center. The board would be a standing committee of the Board of Trustees and would replace the existing health affairs committee of the board. The new board would include both members and non-members of the Board of Trustees and would allow the University to enhance the governance structure of the Health Center, said Wilson.

    The new Board of Directors will be in addition to the Legislature's own oversight committee, which is reviewing the performance of the Health Center in light of the $20 million in supplemental funds provided to its budget during the biennium that ends June 30.

  • Design and Construction Authority: Authority allowing the University to manage non-UConn 2000 facilities projects has been granted until 2007. This recognizes UConn's prudent management of UConn 2000 projects, Wilson noted. It allows the University to undertake projects on any of its campuses and includes

    projects that are state- or privately funded. In the immediate future, this will allow the University to design and construct a multi-sport indoor practice building for which private funds are being raised. Private and public funds are also being sought for restoration of the lighthouse at Avery Point.

  • Student Trustees: Beginning with the student trustee election in 2003, the elected trustee will have to be a full time undergraduate student, while in 2004, the elected student trustee will have to be a full time graduate student, thus ensuring that there will always be one of each. Currently, there are two student trustees but they can be either graduate or undergraduate students.
  • Meningitis: Beginning in the fall of 2002, all students who will live on the campuses of Connecticut's public or private colleges must be vaccinated against meningitis, unless the vaccine is medically contra-indicated or against the patient's religious beliefs. The bill also requires colleges to provide incoming students with information about the disease. UConn already provides students with that information and strongly recommends that students be vaccinated.

Karen A. Grava

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