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Board of Governors urges General Assembly to end state budget impasse

Bill Roper

UNC-System Interim President Bill Roper introduces UNC-Chapel Hill Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and discusses their mission for UNC's future direction at the Carolina Inn on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. 

The UNC-SystemBoard of Governors met Friday to discuss the system's successes of the previous year and the looming concern of the state budget stalemate. 

President's Report 

Interim UNC-System President Bill Roper began the meeting, held at the Center for School Leadership Development near the Friday Center, with his President’s Report.

Roper said the newest progress reports show that the system is "reaching new heights in student success” and working toward its commitment to making higher education accessible and affordable for students.

About 71 percent of students in the UNC System graduate within five years, he said, which exceeds the system’s 2022 goal and is above the national average. He added that more students of low-income backgrounds are graduating from UNC schools than ever before. 

“In short, our students are progressing through our institutions more efficiently, which means they’re saving tuition dollars and entering the workforce more quickly,” Roper said.

Budget Impasse 

Roper said he and his colleagues at the UNC-System office are engaged in several important projects, including working with each university to reexamine and clarify each institution’s mission.

But without a new state budget in place, he said, the system won't be able to pursue major capital projects or needed infrastructure repairs, enrollment growth will go unfunded, and faculty and staff will not receive raises.

“The lack of a state budget for the current fiscal year is a source of great frustration, real disappointment and deep concern that this will hurt our institutions, our faculty, our students and the communities we serve,” Roper said.

Roper urged state leaders to not “make this system collateral damage in this year’s political standoff,” and said that, while the system will work to keep the budget crisis from causing irreparable damage to its institutions, there is no reserve at the system office to cover what would typically be funded by the state budget.

During the meeting, the BOG unanimously passed a resolution that encourages all elected leaders to move quickly to enact the state budget. The resolution also calls on all boards of trustees to create and approve a concurring resolution as soon as it is practical.

The resolution highlights how the proposed budget would provide funding for several critical and time-sensitive university investments and would include funding for several major projects and initiatives across the system. The provisions included in Senate Bill 354, would also provide approximately four percent raises over the next two years for faculty and staff. 

“... the absence of an enacted state budget for FY 19-21 hurts UNC-System institutions, faculty, students, and the communities we serve, and threatens the ability of the University to serve the citizens of the State and contribute to the economic vitality of North Carolina,” the resolution states. 

Before going into closed session, BOG Chairperson Randy Ramsey spoke on several areas where the system will be hurt by the lack of a budget, including that the system will not be able to start more than $630 million dollars in capital projects.

“On one hand, I’m very eagerly anticipating the work we’ll do in 2020,” he said. “But on the other hand, not having a current budget in place does cast a shadow on these proceedings.”

Ramsey emphasized that without funding, the system can’t serve students or the community and that farmers, businesses and industries across the state will be affected.

“With all that said, I don’t want to overshadow the good work that’s going on at this University," Ramsey said. "I have reason to start this year with great optimism about what we have accomplished and what we will continue to accomplish.”

Following the meeting, the UNC System leaders hosted a news conference, where Ramsey began by highlighting the improvements the system has made, including in five-year graduation rates and in enrollment from rural counties.

Concerning the search for a system president, Ramsey said the system has finished its listening sessions and has had about 8,000 people respond to its surveys regarding the matter. The system put together a profile, which has been published on UNC’s website, and is currently accepting applications, he said. 

Roper and Ramsey declined to answer questions about the $2.5 million Silent Sam settlement or the DTH Media Corp. lawsuit.

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The next BOG meetings are set to take place on Feb. 20 and 21.