Budget proposes funding faculty hiring

Western’s budget for next year has crossed another bridge on its way to complete passage by the Board of Regents.

The Budget Council passed its recommendations for the 2003-2004 school year on March 25 after meeting for eight hours. President Gary Ransdell is now considering the budget.

Among other items, the council suggests Western allot $500,000 for new faculty positions to offset enrollment growth, Chief Financial Officer Ann Mead said. They also recommend another $500,000 be budgeted to make permanent the employment of faculty members hired last year on a temporary basis.

“We have to provide the qualified faculty to teach each student,” said Elizabeth Paris, staff council chairwoman and a budget council member. “Five hundred thousand dollars doesn’t fund many positions, but with enrollment growth, it’s necessary to have more funding.”

The recommendations would also increase the university’s health insurance contribution for full-time employees by $20 starting Jan. 1, 2004, she said. The Benefits Committee had recommended a $59 increase for full-time employees.

The Budget Council couldn’t pass the $59 recommendation because of enrollment growth, utilities costs increases and compensation increase costs, Mead said via e-mail.

“The dilemma is to give raises or give benefits,” said Gene Tice, vice president for Student Affairs and campus services and a council member. “All I can do is support the decision the group made.”

They also recommended a 3.7 percent merit pool to increase salaries of full-time and part-time employees and graduate assistants, she said.

Ransdell said he hasn’t had a chance to look over their proposals in detail.

“I would suggest, at first blush, I’m inclined to support the Budget Council’s recommendation,” he said.

Ransdell said he’ll send the proposal back to them this week with anything he might want tweaked.

The Board of Regents’ Finance and Budget Committee will get their first look at the budget proposal at their April 22 meeting.

The full board will meet May 3. They could pass the budget then or in a special meeting later that month.

Tice said this year’s budget was easier to plan because enrollment growth added tuition dollars and state legislators spared it from budget cuts.

“Western is very fortunate to be in the position we’re in,” he said.

Paris said the Budget Council wasn’t able to meet all the needs of the university for next year.

“Obviously, we didn’t get to fund everything we would have liked to, but I think we prioritized and funded what needed to be funded,” she said. “We had a certain amount of money. We could have used two times that.”

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