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House Budget Committee to Hold Hearing on UM Budget Request

February 27, 2006
By: David Castillo
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's House Budget Committee is scheduled to vote on the state's higher education budget for the next fiscal year and the governor's proposal to limit higher education spending to a 2 percent increase.

It's this 2 percent increase that Fares says makes it different from others. In his State of the State address last month, Gov. Matt Blunt recommended the increase for public two and four-year institutions.

The Education Appropriations Chair, Kathlyn Fares, R-Webster Groves, held out little hope her committee would go beyond the governor's recommendation.

"The request cannot be increased unless you can find a corresponding decrease somewhere else," Fares said.

The governor's percentage increase is currently below the inflation rate, and it has some concerned that tuition rates may rise.

"A two percent increase does not cover the increase in mandatory cost increases, so the increase in tuition may have to be greater than the inflation rate," said Nikki Krawitz, Vice President for Finance and Administration for the UM System.

Fares sees things differently.

"This state has been reducing budgets for years and now we have a little to go around," Fares said. "Maybe it's not with inflation, but we've been reducing for years and now it's finally starting to go up."

The UM System initially requested $466 million, but Fares' committee decided on a lower amount of $409.3 million. According to Fares, should the UM System receive that amount, the monies will be disbursed to UM, which will then develop a formula for dividing it up among the four campuses.

The $409 million request is earmarked only for operating expenses like salary increases and maintenance. Regular appropriations, Fares said, cannot be used for capital improvements, for which UM has made a separate request for $303.5 million.

Fares cited the improved economy last year that allowed the state to provide more money to education.

"The university community is happy with the increases this year as opposed to recent years," Fares said.

The factors used in deciding how much money each campus receives include size, population and degree programs offered, Krawitz said, and historically, each campus has received the same portion it received in previous years, Krawitz said.

The request would also fund some new programs called "new decision items," according to Krawitz. They include programs like the "Missouri Endowed Chair Program", and "Preparing the Next Generation of Health Care Professionals."

MU is slated to receive the largest amount of money from the request for this fiscal year.

The UM request must still be approved by the House.