The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the Wausau Community Area Network to spend $1.9 million in federal Building Community Capacity with Broadband grant funds. Wausau is one of five demonstration communities that were awarded $32.3 million in federal broadband expansion and education grants through UW-Extension in 2010. A provision in the state budget required Wausau to get approval from the JFC before spending any money.
The UW System Board of Regents will take up the 2011-12 operating budget and consider tuition increases when it meets on Thursday. UW System President Kevin Reilly is proposing to end a four-year tuition freeze for UW Colleges, which would be included in a 5.5 percent tuition hike for all UW institutions. The increase would amount to $235 for UW Colleges and would bring in-state tuition to $4,503 for two semesters. If the regents approve the new rates, the average annual tuition at four‐year UW institutions will be $6,543, an increase of $381 from last year. In-state tuition at UW-Madison will rise to $8,369 and UW-Milwaukee tuition will be $7,669.
The recommended tuition rates would generate approximately $37.5 million for the coming year, which will cover less than one third of the $125 million in budget cuts that UW System universities and colleges must make in the first fiscal year of the 2011‐13 biennium.
Chancellor Ray Cross told interviewer Mark Koehn that jumping into the state budget battle as a newcomer to Wisconsin was stressful, but also represented “the chance of a lifetime” to participate in the process that could transform an institution like the University of Wisconsin. Cross appeared on WISC-TV3′s For the Record show Sunday June 26. Follow this link to watch the the show online.
Updated June 27.
Chancellor Ray Cross today thanked legislators for listening to the concerns of the university during the budget debate and asked UW-Extension and UW Colleges employees to express their appreciation to their legislators. “I want to recognize the hard work and leadership that many of our legislators exhibited as they worked with us on these important issues,” Cross said in a news release.
Cross singled out Senators Darling, Olsen, Harsdorf, Leibham, Grothman, Hopper, Taylor and Jauch, and Representatives Vos, Meyer, LeMahieu, Nygren, Strachota, Kleefisch, Grigsby and Shilling for extending operational flexibilities to all UW System campuses. Other key leaders who helped a great deal by convincing their colleagues on the importance of flexibilities included, Senator Schultz and Representatives Nass, Kaufert, Murtha, Knudson, Endsley, Kerkman, Brooks, Krug, Ballweg, Farrow, Wynn, Nerison and Tauchen.
For helping to forge a compromise on WiscNet, Instructional Communications Services (ICS) and broadband grants, Cross recognized Senators Moulton, Harsdorf, Olsen, Galloway, Kapanke, Vinehout, Schultz, Jauch, Holperin and Cowles, and Representatives Vos, Nygren, Petryk, Bernier, Larson, Danou, Tranel, Marklein, Milroy, Seidel, Nass, Tiffany, Clark, Wynn, Petrowski, Mursau and Ott.
The $66-billion 2011-13 state budget passed both houses of the legislature last week and awaits Gov.Walker’s signature before becoming law. He promised a “fair number” of line-item vetoes. “I’m going to spend the next week and a half looking through the budget to make sure we haven’t missed anything, ” Walker said. As passed, the budget includes big changes for the UW System and its employees:
- The UW System will take a $250-million cut in state revenue over the next two years.
- UW-Madison will remain part of UW System. A task force will be set up to study UW System structure.
- All UW System institutions gain operational flexibility in human resources, purchasing, travel, tuition and budget management.
- Tuition increases are limited to 5.5% per year.
- UW institutions will be able to participate in the WiscNet high-capacity broadband network at least until 2013, pending an audit and study.
- UW-Extension will not have to return $32.3 million in federal grants to expand broadband access and education in five communities.
- Employee retirement contributions can now be made on a pre-tax basis.
The biggest changes for most employees – increased pension and health insurance payments, along with severely restricted collective bargaining rights — were passed in a separate bill in March. Now that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has cleared the way for that bill to become law, state employees should expect to see changes in pension and health care costs in their paychecks by mid-August.
The State Assembly approved the state budget bill early Thursday morning, including language that preserves UW-Extension’s $32.3 million in broadband expansion and education grants, keeps the university involved in the WiscNet high-capacity network pending an audit and study, and saves UW-Extension’s Instructional Communications Systems (ICS) services. The budget is expected to pass the State Senate without change Thursday and will be signed relatively soon by Gov. Scott Walker. The governor has the power to change aspects of the budget via his line-item veto.
In his message to employees, Chancellor Ray Cross said, “I have been very impressed with the honest and sincere approach of so many of our legislators. They have been honest with me, they have challenged me, they have diligently listened to us and they have tried to determine what was right for their communities, for their constituents and the state. They truly deserve a note of thanks.”
You can find more information in this news release.
The state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Friday, June 3, 2011, voted to cut UW System’s budget by $250 million for the 2011-13 biennium. The committee also voted to give UW System flexibilities in budgeting and financial management, tuition, purchasing, human resources and construction. Members voted down Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to split the UW-Madison from the rest of the UW System.
In an unanticipated move, JFC voted to prohibit the UW Board of Regents, the UW System, or any UW institution, including the UW-Extension, “from receiving funds from any award from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) project.” UW-Extension and partners are currently involved in a BCCB project that is designed to enhance the economy and the quality of life in five rural communities.
Several more steps are necessary before the bill is finalized and signed into law by Gov. Walker. In the coming days legislators will be meeting to discuss proposed changes to the bill.
For more information: