The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 22nd

System officials trim budget request after rejection

After State Budget Director Art Pope called the UNC system’s budget request “not realistic,” system leaders shaved $74 million off their request, in the form of money for new construction projects.

Charlie Perusse, the system’s chief operating officer, said system leaders met with the state budget office last week to discuss Pope’s concerns.

“We ended up in a good spot,” he said. “We reinforced the needs of the system, and we agreed to rescind the capital improvement request — planning money for new capital projects.”

In a memo sent to Pope last week, UNC-system President Tom Ross and Board of Governors chairman Peter Hans wrote that these projects are in line with the board’s priorities, as they are mainly related to science, math and health care. Still, they wrote that they would set aside the request.

“We understand the fiscal constraints faced by the state and have no expectation that these proposed projects could be funded in this short session,” they wrote. “Should funds become available for capital, however, we hope that these priorities will be considered.”

One of the proposed projects is the creation of pharmacoengineering facilities at UNC-CH and N.C. State University. The system had asked for $9.2 million in planning money for the facilities.

Faculty associated with the project could not be immediately reached for comment, but according to documents approved by the board, the pharmacoengineering facilities would include about 165,000 square feet of labs and animal quarters at both NCSU and UNC-CH. The research associated with pharmacoengineering is meant to lead to more effective prevention and curing of diseases.

The system originally requested $163 million for repairs and renovations, but Ross and Hans wrote that they would prioritize these needs in $30-, $40- and $60-million increments. They will provide the state’s budget office with those priorities by March 31.

The system has a backlog of $2.2 billion in repair and renovation needs, but system officials expect only its designated percentage of available one-time repair money for state facilities.

Ross and Hans stood by the request for a $108 million increase in the system’s operating budget, arguing that it is smaller than previous years.

And only about $20 million of that is new funding, Perusse said.

The rest includes $38 million in strategic plan investments — which would be covered by cost-cutting measures that the system identified.

“This is not an appeal for ‘new’ funding,” Ross and Hans wrote. “We simply are seeking to be allowed to retain and reinvest these cost savings in ways that directly benefit the state and its economy.”

The system is also asking to restore past cuts, including to the UNC-CH Medical School, and to repeal the legislature-enacted out-of-state tuition increase .

Pope has not yet issued an official response to the system’s revision.

“We’re still real early in the process,” Perusse said.

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