March is traditionally a quiet month for the UNC-system Board of Governors.
But after a divisive tuition debate in February, board members decided to postpone another important discussion — budget priorities — until this month.
The board’s budget and finance committee met last week to discuss funding requests to the N.C. General Assembly for the upcoming academic year.
David Young, chairman of the committee, said the board decided on a March meeting last month to avoid rushing the budget process. But it was hastily scheduled about a week in advance.
“Because tuition took all our time in February, we didn’t have time to give this the time and attention it needed,” Young said.
But there was still a sense of urgency about the matter.
“We wanted to get it done before the governor put her budget priorities out,” he said, expecting this to happen in April.
J. Bradley Wilson, a committee member, said they had to consider other time constraints.
“(We) needed to advance the process because the legislature will be convening in May and time is running out,” he said.
The most significant budget requests for next year are funding for faculty retention and $163 million for building renovations across all UNC-system campuses.
The system is requesting a 100 percent increase in its retention fund from $5 million to $10 million. Losing professors to other institutions is particularly a problem at UNC-CH and N.C. State University, Young said.
UNC-CH lost 110 of the 201 faculty who received external offers in the last two years.
Young said extra money will enable universities to offer competitive salaries but is cautious about the success of these requests.
“We try to be very modest in our requests for funding because we know even as the economy in North Carolina is coming back, it takes a long time for it to start to hit the state coffers.”
Wilson also noted the difficult budget processes both the UNC system and state legislature will face. But he said he is hopeful the legislature will be generous in funding renovation projects that have been underfunded for years.
“(This) typically doesn’t grab headlines anywhere, but for students on campus and faculty it’s a very real problem,” Wilson said.
Members of the board are bracing themselves for a difficult year, struggling to make the UNC system a top legislative priority.
“Another cut to the University the size of the one last year will put us over the edge in terms of seriously beginning to erode the quality higher education experience on our campuses,” Wilson said.
Contact the State & National Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.