The University of Wyoming will be working with nearly $6 million less for the next biennium after Gov. Matt Mead signed the budget bill into law Thursday.
A 1.5 percent budget cut — applied to many state agencies — is responsible for a majority of the shortfall, said Chris Boswell, vice president for governmental and community affairs.
“The actual dollar amount will be just shy of $6 million for the university over the biennium,” he said.
“That’s the across-the-board reduction.”
One of UW’s largest projects, creating and implementing a new fiscal system, is expected to cost about $20 million during the next two years.
“The Joint Appropriations Committee said, ‘OK, you need $20 million for the fiscal systems at UW for the two years of the biennium. You come up with $15 million, and the state will provide you with $5 million,’” Boswell said. “It’s sort of a winding road in terms of cuts versus the requirement that UW come up with money for these fiscal systems.”
UW wasn’t expecting this, as original estimates had the cost millions of dollars less. The effectively adds to the amount of money the university needs to find internally.
“We have to meet the budget reduction of $6 million on top of (the fiscal system funding),” Boswell said. “Then, we’ve got things like IT that were not funded either in the governor’s recommendations or any additional state appropriations, but we’ve still got IT needs, and we’re going to have to move money around for those needs. It all adds up to a lot of money.”
While some UW areas didn’t receive full funding, the university fared better than other state agencies.
“There’s good news in terms of the Science Initiative — that’s $2.3 million in ongoing, programmatic funding that’s very important to continue progress,” he said. “There’s a new program at the (UW Casper) — a master’s in counselor education — that was funded.”
The $100 million needed for a new Science Building was also approved along with the $2.3 million in recurring funds for the Science Initiative.
“This is really allowing us to jump-start many of the programmatic elements — in particular, the Wyoming Research Scholars Program, which is geared at getting our undergraduate students involved deeply in lab experiences and research experiences and professional development from an early time as students,” said Bryan Shader, mathematics professor and member of the Science Initiative team.
The funding will also go to educating professors, graduate students and Wyoming teachers about active teaching techniques that improve student learning. These new programs can begin before the Science Building is completed, making the $2.3 million just as important as the $100 million facility.
“If you asked any of the faculty involved, they will say the building is great and the new facilities were desperately needed, but what’s really going to make a difference are the programs and being able to get the people trained and some of the resources to deliver enhanced teaching and research opportunities for our students,” Shader said.
The approved funding also says the Science Initiative has firm legislative backing, Boswell said.
“It demonstrates that (the initiative) has the support of significant members of the legislature, support of the governor, and the very remarkable work of the faculty members who’ve been a part of the Science Initiative team — who put together a really thoughtful and significant proposal relating to, not just research, but the teaching of science,” he said.
The much-discussed $8 million match for the athletic department was also approved in the bill.
“We are very appreciative of the Legislature and the governor for supporting the request,” Athletics Director Tom Burman said. “We know our request was a hotly debated topic that many people had opinions on, and we are glad so many people supported the process.”
Athletics already had matching funds available, and not approving the $8 million match would have effectively cut its budget instead of keeping it status quo.
“We’ve had access to a match since 2014, so that would have gone to zero dollars, and it would have been very, very difficult for us,” Burman said. “We would’ve been in a very grave financial situation.
“The objective would have been to do everything we can to increase revenue to cover that cost,” Burman continued. “But long-term, the question would have been, ‘Could UW athletics survive without the match in its current form as a member in the Mountain West Conference?’”
Overall, Boswell said UW emerged well from the state budget cuts compared to other entities.
“You’re going to hear from folks that UW did incredibly well in the Legislature — and we did,” he said.
“There’s a lot of funding that’s been provided to the university.”