UConn’s budget plan looks for more

August 1, 2018

The state’s flagship university is asking the state for $79 million more over the next biennium, an amount that includes state mandated labor expenses and promised capitol improvements.

The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees approved the request, which was described as a bit of a formality. It’s not binding on the governor or legislature and pretty much a first salvo in the budget making process.

The uncertainty is compounded this year by the prospects of both a new governor in January and new UConn president next July. UConn President Susan Herbst has announced she is stepping down and a process to replace her has begun.

Even so, Stephanie Reitz, a university spokesman says that no matter who is charge, the estimated operating costs are based on factors that are more or less fixed.

UConn this year has a total approved appropriation of $190.6 million, which includes $171.4 million in operating expenses, $2.2 million in workers’ compensation claims and $16 million in Next Generation Connecticut capital improvements.

In a memorandum to the board, UConn Chief Financial Officer Scott A. Jordan, asked for $234.3 for the 2019-20 fiscal year and $269.7 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year for UConn’s main and regional campuses. There is a separate budget for UConn Health. The state’s contribution toward fringe benefits is also a separate line item.

The submission is used by the governor’s office is preparing a budget.

Jordan said his office calculated the request based on the amount needed to support current services, plus collective bargaining increases of $10.3 million in FY20 and $10.9 million in FY21 as mandated by the agreement reached between the state and its bargaining units that included a four-year, no-layoff provision.

Also included in the request is $18 million Next Generation funding in the first year, and another $2.9 million in the second year of the biennium.

“This restored commitment would help the university maintain our current standing as the 18th best public university in the nation,” Jordan said.

The state’s block grant contribution to the budget represents just a portion of the UConn’s $1.36 billion budget for this fiscal year which is 2.8 percent higher than last year. Tuition and fees cover $653 million of the budget. Research dollars account for $113 million. Grants, contracts, gifts and other revenue make up the rest.

The state’s share of the budget has been declining and now accounts for 25 percent of the budget.

While balanced, trustees have been warned that collective bargaining and fringe benefit costs could lead to red ink that may mean revisiting UConn’s tuition plan in 2021 or sooner. Tuition and fees for resident students at UConn this fall is $28,604.

Still, the new spending plan allows the hiring of 50 new faculty in both science-technology and non-STEM fields, provides graduate assistants for those new faculty, and start up costs associated with their research.

If the State fully funds our appropriation request of $234.4 million for Fiscal Year 2020 and $269.7 million for Fiscal Year 2021, plus assumed fringe benefit reimbursement, the university will be able to balance its budget for these fiscal years, Jordan told trustees in a written memorandum.

At the same, Trustees got good news. the UConn Foundation just finished its most successful fundraising effort in its 54-year history, closing with a total of $82.4 million in contributions and pledges in the 2018 fiscal year. That is 15 percent higher than the year before.

The University endowment, meanwhile, has grown to nearly $440 million, of which $25 million was used to support the past year’s fiscal budget.

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