Governor releases proposed budget

The budget offices at Western Washington University provided on Friday their analyses of Governor Inslee’s Dec. 18 recommendations for the 2015-17 operating and capital budgets. Linda Teater, Budget Director, and Rick Benner, Director of Facilities Development and Capital Budget sent the following message to all WWU faculty and staff members on Dec. 19:

Yesterday Governor Inslee released his FY 2015-17 operating and capital budgets.  The good news is that the Governor included $2 million in new STEM funding and $300 thousand for a new Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education for Western in the biennial budget.  Unfortunately the rest of the package contains budget recommendations that have significant negative impacts on the budget.

The budget proposes to fund the classified collective bargaining agreements that were negotiated this fall and provides for a 3.0% and 1.8% general increase for the nonclassified employees for 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively. We applaud the effort to end the draught in general wage increases to our employees but the method of funding is problematic.  The Governor’s budget only includes partial funding for compensation increases.  It does not provide funding for the nearly two-thirds portion of employees’ salaries that are paid from tuition dollars.  By including a tuition freeze in his proposal, the budget effectively means that there will be no new resources to fund the increases, so either cuts to an already inadequate budget will need to be made to fund compensation increases, or the compensation increases will have to be watered down to much less than proposed amounts – to approximately 1.15% in FY 16 and .7% in FY17 for faculty and staff.

None of the other decision packages we submitted were funded in the Governor’s operating budget.  You can find a table comparing our operating budget request to the recommendation HERE.

The Governor’s 2015-17 Capital Budget Proposal was also released.  It included partial funding for the Carver Academic Renovation project.  The Governor is proposing to fund $48,903,000 of the project out of State Bond funding and has authorized the University to raise an additional $16,300,000 using Certificate of Participations (COPS).  COPS are a form of debt which will require an annual payment estimated to be $1.2 million.  Again, we applaud the effort to include this important project in the capital budget, but are concerned about the use of COPS.  Without new operating funds, the annual payment of $1.2 million is an additional budget cut.

 The Governor’s Capital budget also funds another biennium of Classroom and Lab Upgrades as well as almost $12,000,000 of Minor Works Preservation projects.  Classroom and Lab Upgrades funding will allow the University to continue adapting older spaces into improved, technologically enhanced, state-of –the-art classrooms and labs.  The Minor Works Preservation funding helps the University address a wealth of backlogged preservation projects including Safety and ADA issues that impact the entire campus.  Finally, predesign was funded for the Science Building Renovation & Addition project, a badly needed renovation, upgrade and expansion of the Environmental Studies Center.  You can find a table comparing our capital budget request to the recommendation HERE.

This is just the first step in a long journey through the legislative session.  The House and Senate will announce their own respective budgets in the spring.  A negotiation of the budgets will lead to the final budget.  Much effort will be required by all who are Western to ensure funding that secures the continuing excellence of our university.  We will continue to keep you informed as we learn more throughout the session.