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Governor's budget proposal and UW-Eau Claire

The following email message was sent Jan. 27 to all UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff following Gov. Scott Walker's announcement regarding the proposed UW System 2015-17 biennial budget.

Dear UW-Eau Claire Faculty and Staff,

Last evening Governor Walker announced a UW System biennial budget proposal that includes reductions in state support, while also providing the System with increased operational flexibilities. (Read the UW System Outline.)

While full details will not be known until the Governor releases his budget on February 3, his initial budget proposal calls for a System-wide base budget reduction of $300 million over the upcoming biennium and a continued tuition freeze. While we don't yet know what UW-Eau Claire's share of that reduction will be, we can be sure that it will significantly add to the $4.5 million deficit we are currently already working to manage here. The Governor's proposal also includes a mechanism for establishing a more consistent, long-term funding source that is intended to insulate the UW System from the fluctuations in funding we have experienced during the past decades.

Under the Governor's proposal, the UW System would be designated as a public authority, a status that would allow the UW System to operate with more autonomy in the future. The public authority designation would give the Board of Regents the authority to set tuition, provide autonomy for overseeing human resources and procurement of certain capital projects, and preserve shared governance and tenure.

If adopted by the Legislature, this budget proposal will have a major impact on our University, beginning this year. Discussions that we have had in regard to our $4.5 million structural deficit will need to be amplified. While we remain committed to preserving our academic mission, nevertheless a reduction of this size and scope will affect every division and college on campus.

These proposed changes are significant and cannot be overstated. That said, the proposal does provide us with greater ability in the future to manage our operations more effectively. The proposal would insulate the university from the biennial legislative budget process, giving a stable funding source with planned growth for the first time in decades.

While there are still many unanswered questions at this time, at the all-campus meeting scheduled for 9:30-10:30 a.m. this Thursday, January 29, in Centennial Hall Room 1415, I will share what we do know about the budget and the proposed new flexibilities. The forum will be videotaped for those who cannot attend in person.

I will provide the campus with updates during the coming weeks as new information becomes available. A second open forum is scheduled for 3:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 3, in Schofield Auditorium, Schofield Hall. By then, we expect to have more details to share on the Governor's proposed budget. 

James C. Schmidt