This Week in Richmond…

Posted: March 14, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This weekly column, written by Thomas Hennessey, chief of staff to President Alan Merten, is published to keep the university community informed on the budget situation in Richmond, and how those developments directly affect George Mason. The column appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

The General Assembly adjourned abruptly on Saturday hours before its scheduled completion time. Late Saturday morning the House and the Senate approved the work of the conference committees and sent to the governor budget bills for the next year that included:

  • A George Mason University Operating Fund reduction: $13 million
  • A small increase in student financial aid: 4.6 percent
  • A salary bonus or paid compensatory time: 2.5 percent across the board for classified employees; 2.5 percent available for “retention” of faculty
  • A General Obligation Bond Bill for capital projects: $107 million over five years for George Mason
  • A provision for tuition increases: Estimated between $300-$400 (in-state undergraduates) and $900-$1000 (out-of-state undergraduates) per year

The overall reduction in operating funds requires significant budget reductions across the university. Students, staff, and faculty will see a decrease in services resulting in longer down times, longer lines, and fewer support staff. An emphasis upon protecting the learning experience requires that larger cuts be made in indirect services and support, but there will definitely be reductions that impact the classroom. Although some of the reductions will be replaced by higher tuition, approximately $6 to $7 million will have to be eliminated from the operations budget.

Early expectations of drastic cuts in major building maintenance projects and new equipment purchases were not fully realized. Although reduced from the previous year, the reductions will permit the most essential maintenance to be performed and some required new equipment to be purchased.

A small increase in student financial aid coupled with the university’s commitment to divert some tuition funds to financial aid should ensure that students with the greatest need will be held harmless by the tuition increase.

The salary bonus of 2.5 percent will likely be paid in December. For classified staff, there is a provision for the bonus to be received as paid compensatory time or a single lump sum. Details will have to be finalized within the next few months. This is not a pay raise but a single bonus payment.

Funded capital projects include a new academic building on the Prince William Campus that will begin construction within the next six months and completion of Academic IV on the Fairfax Campus. Once voters approve the bond referendum in November, we can expect new construction over a two-year period, with major renovations of Thompson Hall, a new academic building in Arlington, additions to the Aquatic Center, and a new dormitory adjacent to the one now under construction.

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