Monday, July 1, 2013

State budget impact on Blugold Commitment

Governor Scott Walker yesterday signed the 2013-15 state budget into law. While Interim Chancellor Gilles Bousquet has kept me apprised of the potential impacts of the two-year tuition freeze, base and one-time budget reductions, postponement of implementation of the new personnel system, and capital budget reduction of $250 million, I want you to be aware of a new development that will directly impact UW-Eau Claire.

Significantly, when Governor Walker signed the budget bill, he included a line item veto that, in addition to the two-year base tuition freeze, also freezes differential tuition approved by the Board of Regents before June 1, 2011. This means the final phase of the Blugold Commitment will not proceed as planned. This will result in an approximately $3 million reduction to our budget. In light of this development, I will be consulting with student leaders, Academic Affairs and others to determine the potential programmatic impacts on Blugold Commitment plans for the coming year.

Governor Walker also partially vetoed a freeze on allocable student segregated fees that will allow those fees to increase during the biennium, if approved by students.

As you know, the budget includes a 1 percent pay plan that, while very modest, enables us to provide the first pay increases to many of our faculty and staff in five years. Still, we have a long way to go toward closing the nearly 20 percent gap in median salaries that exists between our faculty and those at peer institutions. It is imperative for our students that UW-Eau Claire attract and retain the best faculty and staff — pay is increasingly becoming a competitive challenge.  Recognizing that salary is not the primary motivator for our dedicated faculty and staff, we must do better, and I pledge to be a tireless advocate on your behalf.  

We do not yet know what impact, if any, the $250 million capital budget reduction will have on our two projects that were included in the budget — a new $35 million suite-style residence hall on upper campus and $12.4 million reconstruction/redevelopment of Garfield Avenue. As we learn more about these projects, we will keep you informed.