Gov. Matt Mead’s supplemental budget request to the 2019 legislature includes nearly all the $19.4 million requested by the University of Wyoming.
Additionally, Mead is also asking the Legislature to appropriate another $2.5 million in pay raises for UW staff.
Mead said Monday he initiated that proposal after meeting with UW President Laurie Nichols, when he became “most concerned about the employees outside of the professors who have not received raises.”
If the $2.5 million in pay raises is appropriated, Mead said he expects the funding will be used “primarily to address market pay gaps in classified positions.”
The request comes after UW distributed $5.5 million in pay increases this summer. However, some faculty and staff expressed concern that university’s lowest paid employees, like custodians and office associates, still do not receive a liveable wage.
Mead’s $2.5 million request echoes his proposal to give pay increases for other government employees, including community college staff. Mead said pay increases will help address costly turnover rates, which have increased amid four-years of stagnant wages.
Mead said his budget requests remain “conservative,” noting full approval from the Legislature would make his budget smaller than when he took office. If, as Mead expects, the Legislature pushes the bulk of unexpected revenues into the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, the state’s rainy day fund will reach an all-time high balance of $1.9 billion.
The largest request for UW is $10 million in one-time state funding to create the President’s Endowed Scholarship endowment.
Administrators hope the scholarships will encourage more Wyoming high school graduates and community college transfer students to stay in Wyoming for their education.
An existing endowment, the Trustees’ Scholars Award fund, gives scholarships to about 100 top-performing incoming freshmen each year. The President’s Scholarship fund would help recruit students whose performance doesn’t qualify for the Trustees’ Scholars Award.
A $10 million appropriation from the state would require a private match with the UW Foundation to create a $20 million corpus.
Mead also is requesting another $5 million — with another UW Foundation match — in one-time spending to boost programming in the College of Agriculture.
Trustees were told in July the money can be used to add faculty chairs in forestry management and beef/sheep production. Administrators also expressed interest in funding more research in crop seed and production, rangeland management and animal health.
Expansion of the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center and new majors are also possible uses of more College of Agriculture funding.
Mead’s staff is altering UW’s request for the College of Agriculture a bit. Instead of all $5 million coming from the general fund. Mead wants half to come from the state’s Pari-Mutuel Commission, which oversees gambling on horse races.
Mead is also asking the Legislature to establish a “pool of funds” in the block grant to support the Science Initiative, a 2014 state-mandated plan to upgrade the university’s outdated laboratories and improve science education.
UW now wants $1 million to be appropriated this biennium with annual increases of $1 million to boost programmatic funding.
The initial priorities for those Science Initiative funds would be the launch the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, expansion of the Tech Transfer office to expand patents and commercialize research, seed funding for a new construction management major, more federal grant expertise and improvement of cross-discipline research.
Mead has also requested $1 million more annually in programmatic support for student-athletes, which the governor said will “get us back to where we want to be in athletic competitiveness.”
Mead also approved a $1 million request for UW to construct a new well to help irrigate the Jacoby Golf Course.
The only request from UW the governor did not approve was a request for $350,000 annually to fund the Natural Diversity Database.
“This research service is housed within the Office of Research and Economic Development,” administrators wrote in their request. “With budget cuts over the past several years, block grant funding has not kept pace with core operational costs of the program and in fact the gap is widening. As such, the researchers in WYNDD have had to find other available funding streams, which has led them to spend the majority of their time on received grants, thus, less research time is available for core operations.”
Mead since other research dollars the university has would be a better source of funding.
“I wasn’t that we didn’t think it was worthwhile,” Mead said. “With the $17 million we’re providing, we thought they could probably find that $350,000 elsewhere.”
The budget proposals will need approval during the Legislature’s 2019 general session.