PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University will have to trim its operating budget by 5.2 percent if the compromise budget released Wednesday by the Washington Legislature is signed by Gov. Gary Locke.
The budget provides $375.2 million in general fund appropriations, 5.2 percent less than the university’s 2001-03 budget. The funding is $6.8 million less than proposed by the House, and $12.4 million more than proposed by the Senate.
“The higher education budget, while cut significantly, was nonetheless spared from the potentially devastating reductions that were considered,” WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said.
The cut in state appropriation amounts to $21.5 million through several reductions. The cut to the general operating budget is $20.7 million, and assumes tuition for all students will be increased by 7 percent to offset about half of the reduction. Lawmakers also proposed that the university reduce its number of tuition waivers to make up an additional $564,000. Cuts totaling some $275,000 would be made to areas such as travel, equipment and legislative liaison.
“The cut of $21.5 million is a very substantial one,” Rawlins said. “Washington State
University now faces difficult choices concerning its programs and the reality that we will be serving fewer students than we would like.”
Washington lawmakers will allow governing boards of higher education to increase tuition for resident undergraduates by as much as 7 percent per year. WSU’s Board of Regents will meet on June 13 to consider tuition increases for the next year. The Legislature also lowered the limit on tuition waivers from 20 percent to 19.5 percent.
The budget does provide $1.5 million toward the loss of funding as Oregon State University withdraws from the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine consortium.
Karl Boehmke, WSU’s executive budget director, said the Legislature did not provide a general salary increase for faculty and staff. A $2.9 million recruitment and retention pool was funded. The budget shows a $5.8 million increase for employee health benefits, but faculty and staff still will be required to pick up a greater share of the increased cost of health services.
Lawmakers provided $2.9 million to fully fund the utilities and maintenance of recently completed buildings and major new buildings, including the Spokane Health Sciences building, Smith Center for Undergraduate Education, multi-media classroom building at WSU Vancouver, the new energy plant, the shock physics building and Cleveland addition.
Two new programs earned WSU support. Some $360,000 for Extension and $477,000 start-up funding for an instructional program as part of the wine industry education were allocated to the university as was $1,350,000 for a WSU, Clark College and Lower Columbia Community College regional partnership in technology.
Boehmke said the state’s budget included an $8.3 million high demand enrollment pool funded through the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Enrollment contracts that average $11,000 per student will be award principally to prepare undergraduates for careers in nursing and other health services, applied science and engineering, teaching and speech pathology, computing and information technology, as well as viticulture (grape growing) and enology (wine making.)
In other budget actions, lawmakers moved $7.9 million in funding for maintenance from the university’s operating budget to its capital budget.
“Many senators and representatives, including our local delegation, played key roles the outcome for the higher education budget,” Rawlins said. “I am especially grateful to Helen Sommers, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, for her tenacity in ensuring that the worst cuts were avoided.”
Two major university construction projects were funded through the 2003-05 capital budget: the $35.2 million for the Johnson Hall/plant biosciences building and $11.2 million for an addition to Cleveland Hall.
Also provided in the capital budget for the Pullman campus was $4.5 million in design funding for the biotechnology/life sciences facility. Only $3 million for campus infrastructure and $4.4 million for equipment/program improvements were added to the university budget. Lawmakers did provide $42 million in facilities preservation to the capital budget. The funding will begin to support projects to repair existing buildings.
Projects contained in the capital budget for other WSU locations include $4.3 million for WSU Vancouver utilities and infrastructure, $900,000 in planning funds for WSU Tri-Cities’ bio-products and science building and $3 million is planning funds for the College of Nursing center at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane.
The budget also contains $1.5 million in construction funds for a multi-purpose building at WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center. A $150,000 viticulture/enology wet lab renovation at WSU Tri-Cities also was funded in the final budget.