Governor’s Budget Recommendations Include Funding for UW Priorities

Gov. Matt Mead has recommended funding to match private donations for scholarships, academics and athletics at the University of Wyoming, as well as to implement UW’s strategic plan.

The governor’s supplemental budget recommendations for the 2019-20 fiscal year also include $2.5 million for UW employee pay raises, primarily to address market pay gaps in classified staff positions.

The governor’s recommendations, which now go to the Legislature for consideration during its 2019 general session, closely follow the supplemental budget request forwarded in August by the UW Board of Trustees.
“We appreciate the governor’s support of the university,” UW President Laurie Nichols says. “We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these budget priorities with legislators and our governor-elect, Mark Gordon.”

Mead recommends $10 million in one-time state funding, matching the same amount in private giving dollar for dollar, to create a scholarship endowment aimed at encouraging the state’s high school graduates and community college transfer students to stay in Wyoming. The $20 million endowment for the new scholarship program would be created over time, as private funding is secured.

“I support an increase in scholarship opportunities for Wyoming’s highest-performing in-state students,” the governor’s budget message says. “Wyoming high schools are graduating hundreds of high-achieving students, and only a fraction receive UW’s top scholarship. As a result, we lose many of these students to neighboring schools in Montana, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.”

The governor also recommends a total of $5 million in one-time funding, matching the same amount in private giving dollar for dollar, to create an endowment to boost programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Of the governor’s $5 million recommendation, $2.5 million would be focused on a proposed equine studies program, with that money coming from the state’s Pari-Mutuel Commission Fund. Additionally, he recommends $150,000 annually from that fund, on an ongoing basis, to support operating costs of an equine studies program.

The governor’s budget message compares the proposed “Excellence in Agricultural Education and Research” initiative with UW’s Tier-1 Engineering and Science initiatives and its School of Energy Resources — each of which received significant state funding.

“UW has a strong track record of delivering on the promises made for these projects,” the message says. “Agriculture is integral to Wyoming’s history, culture and economy. The ‘Excellence in Agricultural Education and Research’ initiative will support equine studies, forestry management, ranching and land management, and rodeo competitiveness.”

Mead recommends $1 million in recurring dollars — that will be used each year to match private giving — to enhance UW athletics competitiveness. This would return athletics matching dollars to the level requested when the matching program began in 2015, in response to changes in NCAA regulations regarding student-athlete scholarships and benefits, along with recruiting, nutrition and other services to student-athletes.

“A strong athletics program is an important piece of a vibrant university,” the governor’s message says. “UW continues to lag behind our Mountain West and national competitors in the level of funding for student-athlete nutrition programs, in travel, recruiting and technology. The supplement request will bring us closer to regional Division I averages.”

The governor’s supplemental budget request also includes $1 million in one-time funding to provide resources within UW’s block grant that would be used for initiatives tied to the strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022.” Possible uses are helping launch the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

An additional $1 million in ongoing dollars would go toward UW Science Initiative programming, including possible expansion of the Wyoming Research Scholars Program and creation of seed grants for faculty research.
Mead also recommends $1 million in one-time funding to help UW develop additional sources of nonpotable water.

The $2.5 million recommended by the governor for UW pay raises is part of a broader proposal to increase compensation for state workers and community college employees. While the university allocated $5.5 million in the current fiscal year for employee salary adjustments — the first broad-based pay raise for UW employees in three years — there are still gaps between what some university employees are paid and their market averages. The governor’s expectation is that the new $2.5 million would be used “primarily to address market pay gaps in classified positions.”