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President's announcement concerning state budget

Following is the text of an electronic letter dated Dec. 17 by Gene Nichol, president of the College of William and Mary, to the campus community concerning the announcement of the recommended state budget by Gov. Timothy Kaine.

Members of the College Community:

Late last week, Governor Kaine announced welcome and much-needed funding for capital projects at William and Mary and our fellow institutions of higher education. We were heartened to see full funding for the new School of Education, available by next summer--ensuring that the newly cleared Williamsburg Hospital site won’t be vacant long. A most encouraging start on ISC III, some $35 million, together with support for needed updates to campus utilities and dollars for two VIMS laboratories, is included in the Governor’s proposed general obligation bond. If the General Assembly and Virginia voters approve the measure, as they did in 2002, we will approach $100 million in support for College capital projects in a year’s time. We all take that to be, as the Governor has indicated we should, an unmistakable investment in the work of the College. 

This morning, the Governor released his recommended budget for the 2008-2010 biennium. Its proposals are, as most economic forecasts had led us to expect, considerably less promising. Almost all of the six and a quarter percent budget cut sustained this fall was made permanent--posing serious challenges for us in months to come. We did receive additional base adequacy funding, but faculty and staff salary increases are delayed until summer 2009, and then take effect at only three percent--a position at odds with our aspirations, our plans, and our competitive demands. We are hopeful that these figures will show improvement in the months to come. For more detail on these and other elements of the Governor’s recommended budget, please see the memo that follows from Vice President for Finance Sam Jones.

None of these is a circumstance we would choose. But they are, beyond question, challenges we must answer. We’ll begin by making the most potent case we can for the College’s priorities, recalling that the Governor’s is the first proposal in a much longer process. We’ll tell of the surpassing necessity of reaching our long-established faculty and staff salary goals, continuing the state commitment to student financial aid, and not losing sight of all-important operating dollars. We’ll remind, as Governor Kaine and his colleagues often do, of the close ties between the Commonwealth’s higher education system and its economic vitality--a message all the more resounding amid such stark challenge.

We’ll also begin preparing for the budget that will ultimately emerge, understanding that one-time cuts and deferments will likely not satisfy its demands. Our College, yet again, will be called to do more with less, to maintain progress while funds become ever harder to find. We will be equal to the tasks ahead, as we have been before. But we’ll take them up only after William and Mary’s strong advocates on campus, among our alumni, on the Board of Visitors, and in the General Assembly have been heard.

My colleagues and I will be in Richmond often, as we were last week and this morning. We’ve shared our gratitude for Governor Kaine’s partnership in supporting higher education and, closer to home, in updating our decades-old “new campus.” We’ll again forcefully make the case to support the people whose work, study, and lives make this place literally unlike any other.

Gene Nichol