Less than 48 hours after the state's voters overwhelmingly approved the largest bond in higher education history, UNC-system officials were busy ironing out the funding requests from the General Assembly for the next two years.
On Thursday, the Board of Governors held a series of committee meetings, including the Budget and Finance Committee, which put the finishing touch on the 2001-03 budget request of the BOG.
As of today, the budget request for the 2001-02 year totals more than $4.7 billion. But that amount includes the $2.5 billion that the system is set to receive from the higher education bond referendum. The funding request for 2002-03 year comes in at more than $2.2 billion - which is more typical of the usual BOG budget request.
Today the committee will host a workshop to further discuss the budget request. Afterward, the budget will be approved by the full board, at which point it will be passed on to Gov. Jim Hunt.
Hunt could make changes to the proposal before passing it along to Governor-elect Mike Easley. After the budget request gets Easley's seal of approval, it will go before the General Assembly, which reconvenes in January.
Several UNC-system officials noted that federal funding, donations and endowment funding would further increase the UNC-system's budget.
"It's a huge economic catalyst for our state when you talk about $4 (billion) to $5 billion a year in funding," said BOG member Addison Bell.
The budget also includes a request for a $26 million need-based student financial aid plan. But more than $8 million of that sum would come from the 4 percent across-the-board tuition increase which is expected to be approved by the BOG in today's meeting.
"All we're doing is telling the legislature how they could use the funds from the tuition increase," said Bradley Wilson, budget committee chairman.
But Andrew Payne, UNC Association of Student Governments president and a nonvoting BOG member, questioned why all of the funding from the tuition increase went into one program.
"I would at least like to see some of the money (from the tuition increase) go back to the institution," Payne said.
But as the meeting was wrapping up, discussion began to revolve around possible plans of action for spending the largest part of the budget request - the bond package.
He emphasized that BOG members need to initiate discussion on how to make sure the funding is spent as efficiently as possible.
"The people of North Carolina have given this university and everyone affiliated with it an overwhelming vote of confidence," Wilson said. "But it's not over; it's just the beginning."
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