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General Assembly update (March 2011)

President Taylor Reveley sent the following message to the campus community on March 4, 2011 - Ed.

Dear William & Mary Community,

The General Assembly adjourned last Sunday, having passed its proposed amendments to the Commonwealth’s 2010/12 budget.  The General Assembly will reconvene on April 6 to consider the Governor’s response, including any vetoes. 

Here is a brief account of the FY 12 budget as modified by the General Assembly.

First, the impact on W&M salaries and retirement contributions is complicated.  At the risk of gross oversimplification, this is where things stand:  The General Assembly recommended that, effective June 25, 2011, participants in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) contribute 5% toward their retirement, with the impact on net pay offset by a 5% salary increase.   The General  Assembly proposed no changes in the retirement contribution rates or salaries of (a) VRS participants employed on or after July 1, 2010, or (b) participants in the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP).  William & Mary employees are divided roughly fifty-fifty between VRS and ORP.

When it comes to salaries, this means that only some people at the College are in line for a raise.  Raises for some and not others is troublesome.  The fact that William & Mary employees as a whole have not received salary increases for three years makes any inequities, real or perceived, especially painful.  We will work hard to ameliorate this situation if we can.  

Second, for the first time since 2008, the General Assembly did not impose any new cuts on higher education, though it left in place a $10 million reduction enacted last year.  This cut has yet to be distributed among the state schools.  We do not know when the cut will come or what our share might be. 

Third, we survived the latest attempt to reduce the percentage of our out-of-state undergraduates.  William & Mary and UVA faced the most serious risk yet that our percentage of out-of-state students would be legislatively cut from 35% to 25%. This did not happen after state universities, especially UVA and William & Mary, agreed to take additional in-state students phased in over the next four to five years.  UVA will be adding 1,000 in-state undergraduates along with several hundred out-of-state students.  William & Mary will enroll a total of another 150 in-state undergraduates over the next four years, starting with 38 in the Class of 2015.  We’ll also take another 50 or so out-of-state students over the same time period.  I am very grateful for the hard work and keen analysis of the campus-wide committee of faculty, administrators and students who examined the factors that we must take into account when acting on growth in the undergraduate body.

Fourth, the General Assembly provided an additional $900,000 in funding for various programs on the main campus and $550,000 at VIMS.  This helps, though it may be reduced by William & Mary’s share of the yet undistributed $10 million cut to higher education just noted.

Fifth, there were no changes on the capital front.  The renovation of Tucker Hall and the construction of ISC 3 remain on the list of authorized projects, but they are not yet funded.  Funding depends on the state’s debt capacity.  We have been urging prompt action on this front and will keep doing so.

On balance, the General Assembly’s budget does little to change the basic calculus for next year.  Like other state institutions, William & Mary must still close a funding gap in FY 2012 that was covered this fiscal year by one-time federal stimulus dollars.  For the main campus, this gap is $6.8 million.

Finally, the General Assembly unanimously approved the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011.  The legislation is quite complex and very long.  Its actual meaning will become clear only as it is implemented.  We hope the act will enable William & Mary to sustain our highly engaged approach to undergraduate education.  The Governor and General Assembly do intend the act to help higher education generally.

When we know more, I will report again.

Taylor Reveley