University system leaders are happy with how they emerged in the state budget, saying they were grateful lawmakers opted to fund enrollment growth and other asks they had.
John Fennebresque, a Charlotte attorney who serves as the chair of University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors, called the $100 million overall increase for the university system “the best budget” since the Recession began in 2008.
Among the things lawmakers opted to fund in the two-year budget signed into law this afternoon by Gov. Pat McCrory were annual enrollment growth costs of $49 million, and earmarked dollars to vshore up East Carolina University’s medical school and Elizabeth City State University.
Chancellors will also be able to carry over financial savings they might find on their campuses to future years, in order to fund other priorities.
Those words of praise about the budget came despite the UNC system being handed $64.4 million in discretionary cuts over the next two years, and following nearly $500 million in cuts the system has weathered since 2010.
UNC system staff and faculty, like all state employees, also received a $750 bonus in the budget instead of any type of permanent salary adjustment.
Tom Ross, the president of the UNC system, said that he viewed the budget overall as a positive for the UNC system in comments he made during Friday’s meeting.
“Our enrollment was fully funded for both years,” Ross said, referring to the additional $49 million each year allotted to cover increasing numbers of students. “We’ve got to have the resources to educate the students when they come.”
Fennebresque, the UNC Board of Governors’ chair, did say there were items going into effect in 2016-17 that he and the board was less enthusiastic about, including a cap of $1 million per campus that can be spent on fundraising efforts and the discretionary cuts .
The budget calls for chancellors and university officials to make $17.9 million in cuts in this current fiscal year, and will jump by an additional $46.4 million in 2016-17.
“The second year has got some problems for us and I don’t want to get in a fight about it right now,” Fennebresque said.
He also offered some new details to reporters about the search for the next president of North Carolina’s university system.
The pool of possible candidates is down to approximately 10 candidates, and final candidates will not meet with faculty groups as part of the interview process, he said.
The candidates were interview in person this week by a search committee at closed-door meetings held on the SAS campus.
“The quality was superb and the interest was reciprocal,” Fennebresque said. “The search committee feels very good about the progress to date realizing we haven’t even started the hard part.”
He hopes a final candidate will be selected by the search committee within a month or so, when the search committee’s choice would be presented to the full UNC Board of Governors for approval.
Ross, the current UNC president, was unexpectedly ousted last January for reasons speculated to be political in nature but have not been officially explained other than a general desire for change by the UNC Board of Governors.
He was hired in 2010 by a board appointed by what was a Democratically-controlled legislature, and the board now consists entirely of appointees selected by a state legislature controlled by Republicans.