New budget includes tuition cut, staff pay increases

Linda Teater, director of Western Washington University's Budget Office, and Rich Van Den Hul, WWU vice president for Business and Financial Affairs, sent the following message to WWU faculty and staff Wednesday evening regarding the Washington State Legislature's approved budget for the 2015-2017 biennium:


The Washington State Legislature on Monday passed a biennial operating budget for 2015-2017 that includes funding for Western Washington University. Governor Jay Inslee signed the budget measure Tuesday. This is a positive and important budget for both Western and public higher education. The Legislature made critical investments ensuring that higher education in the state of Washington will be more affordable and accessible.

Resident undergraduate students and their families will benefit from tuition reductions contained in the budget. During the Recession, tuition increases were dramatic as budgets were cut. We are extremely pleased to see that trend reversed, to the benefit of our students! We also are appreciative of the Legislature funding these tuition reductions so they did not become, in effect, a deep cut to Western.

Tuition cuts for resident undergraduates at Western will be phased in over the next two years, with a 5 percent reduction Fall 2015 followed by an additional 15 percent reduction for Fall 2016.

Thanks to the efforts by so many on what was our top priority, competitive compensation, we ended up with compensation funding.  Funding is provided to fund contracted increases for classified colleagues of 3 percent for 2015-2016 and 1.8 percent for 2016-2017. Compensation for classified employees also includes the much needed “salary survey” component that will support major market-based adjustments for many positions.  As we have always stated in the past, the budget bill is exceedingly long and there are many details to analyze.  At this point, though, our analysis indicates that, for faculty and staff, the budget only funds 90% of what would be necessary to increase compensation by an equivalent 3% for 2015-2016 and 1.8% for 2016-2017.  This is, still, a far better position than we began with back in December with the Book 2 (“New Revenue”) budget.  And, competitive compensation will be a top priority as we now turn to building an operating budget for the 2015-2017 biennium.

In addition, the Legislature also provided funding to Western for the creation of a computer and information system security academic program at Peninsula and Olympic Colleges, to begin in 2017.

We have updated the usual table so that you can track and compare all 2015-2017 operating budget proposals: our original request, the Governor`s proposal, the House proposal, the Senate proposal, and the final budget approved by the Legislature.

Now that the State has finished its work, campus budget meetings, campus budget review and a special Board of Trustees meeting have been scheduled to allow us to prepare our operating budget (see calendar here).

The capital budget has also been passed and contains good news for Western.  It includes funding for the Carver Academic renovation project, our greatly needed, top capital priority.  The final budget includes the additional funds added in the Senate version which cuts by more than half the investment of $16 million of university funds that had been a part of the Governor`s original proposal.  The capital budget also includes $8.5 million for capital preservation and $3.6 for maintenance activities in the operating budget.  The usual capital budget comparison table can be found here.

Thank you so much for your patience as budget negotiations in Olympia stretched through two special sessions and into a third. There has been a remarkable level of support and appreciation for Western in the Legislature and that is due in no small measure to the tremendous efforts by Western administrators, faculty, staff, students, unions and many friends and supporters. Your determination and evident pride in Western made all the difference!