The 2013 General Assembly, which was dominated by issues related to transportation and Medicaid expansion, adjourned on Feb. 23.

For higher education, the General Assembly provided additional funding for salaries increases, operating support, research and economic development, and capital outlay over those proposed in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s executive amendments to the 2012-14 budget. Additional funding for higher education in the second year of the budget will exceed $47 million.

Budget related actions impacting Virginia Tech

The General Assembly modified existing plans for a 2 percent pay raise for all state employees in 2013-14, enhancing the plan to now provide a 3 percent merit-based raise for all faculty members and a 2 percent increase plus an additional compression action for classified and university staff.

To address staff compression, in addition to the 2 percent base increase all university and classified staff with at least five years of continuous state service as of July 25, 2013, will receive an additional base salary increase of $65 dollars per year of service, up to 30 years.

These compensation actions, the first in six years, remain contingent upon the commonwealth’s revenue performance in 2012-13.

To support the goals of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011, Virginia Tech will receive an additional $690,000 in general funds for operating and maintenance costs, faculty growth, and other programs and initiatives in the university’s six-year plan. Virginia Tech will also receive an increase in undergraduate student financial assistance of $819,000.

The university will receive $603,000 in the second year of the biennium to support and expand in-state undergraduate enrollment. A portion of this new funding represents the third installment of a four year agreement between the commonwealth and Virginia Tech, James Madison University, the College of William & Mary, and the University of Virginia.

In the second year of the biennium, the governor and General Assembly included an additional $600,000 to support the university’s unique military activities. This increase will help bring funding for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets more in line with that received by cadets at the Virginia Military Institute.

To support critical ongoing brain injury research and further spur economic development in Roanoke, McDonnell and the General Assembly invested an additional $1 million in the research program at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

In capital outlay funding, the university received $50 million to construct a new classroom building to be located behind Derring Hall. Additionally, the General Assembly provided non-general fund authorization for the university to begin pre-planning the renovation and renewal of three existing academic buildings located in the core of main campus: Davidson Hall (front section), Sandy Hall, and the Performing Arts Building.

Also, the university will receive an additional $2 million through the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund for scientific and information-technology equipment needs.

“The university is very grateful for this allocation as the funding will help ensure the university’s laboratories and research facilities are positioned to compete for external sponsored grants,” said Chief Financial Officer M. Dwight Shelton.

Finally, the General Assembly eliminated an administrative efficiency savings plan created in the 2012 General Assembly budget that reduced the university’s General Fund support by $629,163 in the University Division and $209,909 in the Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station in each year of the biennium. While the university was able to mitigate the impact to campus of this budget reduction in 2012-13, the restoration of this support will prevent potential reductions of activity in 2013-14 and beyond.

Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Agricultural Experiment Station

The General Assembly included new General Fund resources to partially support the operations and maintenance costs of the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building I. This allocation will help alleviate the need to redirect other funds for this purpose. 

In addition, the General Assembly authorized use of non-general funds for planning the Improve Kentland Facilities project, allowing the university to move the research portion of the Kentland project more quickly.

Significant legislation related to higher education

This year the legislature considered more than 2,300 bills and resolutions. A number of bills involved higher education board governance.

Legislation requiring institutions to appoint one nonvoting, advisory faculty representatives to their respective boards ultimately failed. The bill further required boards of visitors to choose a nonvoting, advisory student representative from individuals elected by the institution's student government or student body. Virginia Tech has included faculty, staff, and student representatives to the board for many years.

The General Assembly did adopt legislation directing the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to annually deliver educational programs to new board members at least once during their first two years of membership.

Legislation establishing the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium was adopted by the House and Senate. Virginia Tech is partnering with the Consortium, and other four-year institutions and private corporations, to help establish Virginia as a national and global leader in nuclear energy research. No funding was attached to this legislation, however.

The General Assembly rejected legislation instituting a policy requiring that 75 percent of the students admitted and enrolled at each institution of higher education be domiciled in Virginia. Also, the legislature rejected a number of other attempts to intrude on the policy making responsibilities of university administrations and boards of visitors.

Written by Elizabeth Hooper, state legislative liaison.

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