The Last Week in Richmond…

Posted: March 5, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

This 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 periodically on Wednesdays in the Daily Gazette.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, the General Assembly formally ended the 2003 session. The conference committee agreed to many budget amendments, some having direct impact on George Mason. Among the conference amendments agreed to were a 5 percent cap on tuition increases for 2003-04, funding for Academic IV (Innovation Hall), funding for Prince William IIIA, and a potential 2.25 percent salary increase in December.

The key points of the budget agreement surrounding the decision to cap any increase at 5 percent were that all schools will be required to use the tuition increase to fund any salary increase and health insurance increases. This will, of course, increase the total tuition percentage as high as 8 percent. Unfortunately, the General Assembly was unable to fully fund the start up and operating requirements for Innovation Hall. The request for $1.35 million was cut to $575,000. Likewise, the total for Prince William IIIA was reduced from $5.2 million to $4.5 million. On a positive note, the General Assembly approved all the requests for the university to move ahead on a expanded parking deck and renovations of the Patriot Center.

The 2.25 percent salary increase proposed for December 2003 is contingent upon an increase in state revenues. If Gov. Mark Warner determines on Aug. 15 that revenues are insufficient to support the raise, state employees will go another year without a pay raise.

Between now and April 2, the governor will review all the legislation presented by the General Assembly and take action, where appropriate, to sign, modify, or veto specific legislation. The General Assembly will reconvene for one day on April 2 to consider the changes made by the governor. After General Assembly action, we will know finally the status of state support for George Mason.

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