Regents seek funding hike for universitiesIncrease of 8.7 percent would be in addition to $167.9M already OK’d by Legislature.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The state Board of Regents decided Thursday to request more than $15.5 million of additional general funding from the Legislature next year for South Dakota’s system of public universities and special schools.
The 8.7 percent increase would be atop the $167.9 million of general funding that legislators approved for the current budget year.
In addition, the regents agreed to ask for $4 million of funding one time for a research innovation fund; and $780,000 of one-time help for a program to assist students in succeeding in their courses.
The request also calls for authority to add the equivalent of 47.5 more full-time positions on an ongoing basis. The system currently is authorized for 5,039.4 FTEs.
Salary policy and increased aid for scholarships are also on the regents’ priority list but don’t have dollar amounts attached.
Those amounts await recommendations from the governor and negotiations among legislators.
The regents haggled politely with one another Thursday over the exact order on the priority list for the nine ongoing increases.
University of South Dakota President Jim Abbott convinced the regents to attach a dollar figure to the request for expansion of the USD medical school to teach more doctors and physician assistants.
The $2,587,227 amount is only an estimate at this time while a governor’s task force completes its work on a recommendation. Abbott said the regents’ support for the expansion might be overlooked by the Legislature without the dollar figure.
“I get that,” said Regents president Kathryn Johnson, of Hill City. She noted that a different amount might be recommended by the task force or the governor. The regents ranked the medical-school expansion fourth on the portion of the list for projects with designated amounts. The regents agreed to hold a public meeting by teleconference at a later date if necessary to adjust any numbers on the list.
“Some of us have some strong feelings about some things,” Regent Terry Baloun said. In the top spot was performance funding of $3.2 million for which the six state universities would compete among themselves.
Next is nearly $2 million for the new doctoral program in physics that will operate from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City and the University of South Dakota at Vermillion.
No. 3 was about $2.3 million annually, for five years, to offset a portion of the building fee that students pay for renovations and new construction on the campuses.
The maintenance and repair backlog is estimated to reach $33.5 million next year.
In fifth is nearly $1 million to hire eight faculty researchers at the Agriculture Experiment Station in Brookings.
Also making the list is $140,000 to the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired based at Aberdeen to hire outreach consultants.
No. 7 is $447,000 for five of the universities to hire coordinators who would work on steering people with bachelor degrees into teaching high school courses in Indian reservation areas.
The program would assist the new teachers in fulfilling the secondary-education coursework needed for state certification.
Items eight and nine on the list are tuition offsets for students.
One calls for $1.8 million to cover a portion of the special fee that students pay into the faculty salary enhancement program.
The other would provide $1 million to cover inflation for operating expenses at the campuses.