Gov. Scott Walker signed the state’s 2013–15 biennial budget on June 30.
The budget is a wide ranging financial and policy plan for state government including UW–Platteville. It includes several very positive items for the university and our students and it presents some significant challenges for us.
First, the positives. Undergraduate resident tuition is frozen. This provides much-needed relief for UW–Platteville students who have seen annual tuition increases of 5.5 percent. Employees will receive a 1 percent pay raise in 2013–14 and another 1 percent in 2014–15. This is long overdue, as many of our employees have not had raises since 2008. Funding is provided to purchase Bridgeway Commons, the new residence hall and dining facility constructed by the UW–Platteville Real Estate Foundation.
The budget’s challenges are significant but not insurmountable. The net impact of the many funding decisions in the budget are a cut of about $1.4 million for UW–Platteville in 2013–14 and $1.7 million each year thereafter. The 1 percent pay raise is welcome, but does little to remedy the fact that UW–Platteville faculty are paid significantly less than faculty at comparable institutions. The university is committed to investing additional monies to provide larger pay increases. This will help our employees, and it will help the community and region, as people have more to spend on discretionary items such as dining out, purchasing new vehicles, and buying clothes.
Finally, the budget does not include the proposed renovation of Boebel Hall. This is a critical project for the university to provide modern laboratory facilities for many of our students and faculty. We will continue to advocate for funding to renovate this building.
It is important to place my observations into perspective. In 2001–02, UW–Platteville received about 40 percent of its budget from state funds. For 2013–14, we expect the comparable figure to be less than 20 percent. While we appreciate the state support, the reduction does force us to be more creative and entrepreneurial to ensure the same cutting-edge education for our students.
Not only does UW–Platteville offer Wisconsin residents a high-quality accessible education, but the university is also an important part of the economy of Southwest Wisconsin and the entire state. A recent economic study estimated the 2011–12 regional impact of the university at more than $285 million and identified more than 4,300 jobs (university and private) that are a result of UW-Platteville. These are tangible and real results of our students, faculty and other employees living, learning and working in this region. Through our focus on diligent and prudent financial planning, UW–Platteville will continue to achieve academic excellence and promote opportunities for success and growth, not only to our students, but also to the Platteville community.
The Community Corner is a weekly column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Chamber Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; Platteville Recreation Coordinator Jordan Burress, State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.