By Jeff Amy
JACKSON – College Board members are delaying a decision on how large a budget increase to seek from Mississippi lawmakers.
The board voted Thursday to delay the decisions until June 27, saying they wanted to learn more about the large increases universities were seeking for some research units.
The state’s eight public universities asked the board to seek a total increase of $84.8 million in the 2016 budget year. Though the 2015 budget year doesn’t begin until July 1, agencies are already preparing 2016 requests in advance of budget hearings later this summer.
“I think the general consensus of the board is we need more detail to justify the increases,” said Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee.
The board’s Finance Committee also considered a smaller overall request seeking an additional $61.4 million – an 8.2 percent increase. That would limit all units to 5 percent more, even those that have no students and thus can’t raise tuition to collect money.
In the last two budgeting cycles, the system has asked for smaller amounts, but has persuaded lawmakers to give the universities almost all of what they asked for. For example, earlier this year, the Legislature approved a $29 million increase in what the state spends on universities, most of the $32 million the College Board sought. Some other agencies made requests for much larger amounts and walked away with less than the universities received.
There’s little dispute about a proposal to put $32 million more, a nearly 9 percent increase, into a formula that allocates money to universities based in part on how many credit hours students complete. The board also wants $8 million would go into a special projects fund it would control.
Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University proposed 12 percent increase for their agricultural research units. MSU officials said that university is considering a 5 percent pay increase next year, and because federal and county funds might not increase as much as the state money, the units could have to make cuts to be able to match that.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center sought a $17 million increase, which would boost its state funding by 9 percent to $205 million.
“We need to have some increase when the economic and political environment allows,” Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones said.