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RUNTE, FENNING ADDRESS CAPITAL, OPERATING BUDGET REQUESTS

At a "town meeting" the morning of Dec. 5, President Roseann Runte and Vice President for Administration and Finance Robert Fenning discussed the university's state budget requests with about 150 Old Dominion employees.

Fenning characterized this as a challenging period for Old Dominion, in light of the fact that the commonwealth is facing a revenue shortfall in excess of $1 billion, out of a budget totaling only $12.5 billion, the result of an economic downturn.

When Gov. Gilmore releases his 2002-04 biennial budget Dec. 19, Old Dominion, along with other state colleges and universities, is anticipating a minimum 2 percent operating budget cut for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

"We're going to try and make it as pain-free as possible to all of you," Runte said.

However, it is further anticipated that the 2002-04 state budget may call for additional cuts to help address the state?s revenue shortfall. There is also considerable discussion at the state level about allowing tuition increases to address the impact of these cuts, Fenning said, noting that tuition has been frozen in Virginia since 1997. Whether or not tuition levels are raised, Runte said she plans to lobby the state for funding to increase the amount of financial aid for students.

Despite the state's bleak revenue scenario, the university will be actively pushing for various operating and capital budget requests, including salary increases for faculty and staff, Runte assured. And while it doesn't appear likely state employees will receive retroactive raises in the current fiscal year, next year could be a different story.

If the freeze on tuition is lifted, it is possible that tuition increases could be used to help finance raises, Fenning noted. Old Dominion is supporting a State Council for Higher Education's proposal which calls for raises of 5.6 percent for full-time instructional faculty, and 3.5 percent for administrators, adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants for each year of the biennium. Fenning said later that there has been no indication of what will be recommended by the governor for classified employees.

In addition to pushing for a compensation package, Old Dominion will seek funding to achieve "base adequacy" in the next budget cycle -- money to bring the university up to an appropriate funding level that reflects the application of guidelines developed by the state's Joint Subcommittee for Higher Education Funding.

Old Dominion also is seeking additional general operating funds for various initiatives. Runte said the requests are grouped in two categories: teaching and distance learning, and research, science and technology. Among the requests are funding for the operation and maintenance of new facilities, an expansion of TELETECHNET, the Center for Computational Sciences, and a community college leadership and grant program.

The university also has an ambitious list of capital budget requests for the 2002-04 biennium, most of which have been endorsed by SCHEV. Heading the list are $6.56 million to equip the Engineering and Computational Sciences Building, $10.8 million to renovate the Technology Building, and $11.4 million to renovate the Batten Arts and Letters Building. In all, the university has put forth 15 requests totaling approximately $98 million. In addition, Old Dominion is seeking funding to address deferred maintenance projects and other major renovations.

"The president is working very hard on behalf of Old Dominion University to have [SCHEV] recognize what our needs are and having them incorporated into budget requests," Fenning said. "As the financial situation of the state improves, I'm sure we can see that being realized in actual appropriations."

Fenning said that while it is likely Gilmore's budget would include a provision for, at most, one capital budget request, there is talk among state legislators of a $1 billion bond referendum to help fund the building needs of higher
education. He pointed out that North Carolina citizens overwhelmingly approved a $3.1 billion bond bill last year, a fact that could bode well for a similar bill in Virginia.

Fenning also mentioned that the state could decide to dip into its "rainy day fund" to help agencies weather a portion of the current budgetary storm.

This article was posted on: December 7, 2001

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.