The fiscal year 2006 University System budget approved by state legislators the last week of March represents the first year-to-year increase since fiscal year 2002. It fully funds the System formula, providing $103.4 million in enrollment-based increases that will give UGA and the other System institutions significant help in mitigating the impact of three fiscal years of budget reductions.
The budget annualizes the pay increase given at the midpoint of the current fiscal year and provides funds for a merit-based increase pool of 2 percent, to be effective Jan. 1, 2006.
“We appreciate the governor and General Assembly fully funding the formula and providing a pay raise pool in the still-difficult economy,” says Hank Huckaby, senior vice president for finance and administration. “We’re glad to have this budget moving in a positive direction relative to previous years, and do understand the difficult trade-offs required to assemble a complicated state budget plan.”
The budget provides $1.6 million to cover a shortfall of state-appropriated funds to fully cover the cost of providing fringe benefits for Cooperative Extension Service retirees. Otherwise, the funding would have had to come from Extension Service program reductions. Additional budget reductions were limited to some UGA “B” units and public service institutes, totaling $320,000, and the Cooperative Extension Service received $240,000 in additional funding for several research and extension programs.
In the capital budget, the General Assembly approved design funding for the top four projects on the regents’ priority list, none of which are at UGA. The UGA College of Pharmacy addition received $1.6 million in design funding in the fiscal year 2005 supplemental budget passed earlier in the session, raising the possibility that it could be funded for construction in the fiscal year 2006 supplemental or in the fiscal year 2007 main budget.
The budget provides $51 million in bonds for University System major repair and rehabilitation projects, as well as $6.5 million to construct a new dining hall at UGA’s Rock Eagle 4-H Center, $5 million to construct animal and dairy livestock facilities for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Oglethorpe County (allowing reprogramming of land on South Milledge Avenue), and $1.5 million in equipment funds for the new Lamar Dodd School of Art building on East Campus, on which construction is to begin later this year.
“MRR funding continues to be a major priority for the university,” Huckaby says. “Our backlog in MRR projects now exceeds $200 million, so we’ll be asking for a significant increase in this area in the fiscal year 2006 supplemental and the fiscal year 2007 budget.”
“The university is fortunate to have the respective higher education subcommittee chairs in appropriations as part of our local delegation,” says Randy Powers, state government relations director. “Sen. Brian Kemp and Rep. Bob Smith have really gone to bat for UGA during this session.”