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U.M. curator calls budget increase unfair

But others say the smaller increase is not surprising

The small increase in state funds for the University of Missouri system under Gov. Mel Carnahanís budget plan has one curator concerned.

The governorís budget recommendation of $367.1 million, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year, is the smallest boost in funds of any of the stateís universities and colleges. Curator Fred L. Hall Jr. said he thinks this is unfair.

"I have asked Mr. George about that. I feel we are being treated unfairly," Hall said. "The university is carrying the responsibility of providing professional educations that are very expensive, and yet we are receiving lesser increases in our budget than the regional universities."

Hall said that over a two-year period, the university systemís budget increased by 10 percent. During the same time, the budget for community colleges increased by 28 percent and regional universities saw a 20 percent increase.

Hall is optimistic that the General Assembly will increase the governorís proposed percentage of state funds allocated to the U.M. system.

"I am hopeful that the General Assembly will be generous and understand that weíll be very frugal and careful with every dollar with which we are entrusted," Hall said.

U.M. spokesman Maurice Manring, however, is not overly concerned with the budget increase proposed by the governor.

"We are pleased that the governor has recommended an increase that covers inflation and that heís recommended $4 million in funding for our program of endowed chairs," Manring said. "We were really hoping weíd get that."

Manring emphasized that staying ahead of inflation is the number one priority of the university system.

"Our biggest goal is to always cover inflation so that it doesnít eat away at the base budget ... that was the problem in the í70s and early í80s -- inflation eroded away at salaries," Manring said.

Manring said he did not believe that favoritism was an issue in this situation.

"Obviously, we would like as big an increase as Gov. Carnahan could give us, but itís just not our turn for it," Manring said. "We got a very healthy increase last year and a sufficient one this year."

Carnahanís budget proposal is lower than the Higher Coordinating Boardís recommendation of $393 million. The system received an 8 percent increase last year.

U.M. system lobbyist Jim Snyder attributed U.M.ís budget decrease to other statewide financial concerns, such as proposed tax cuts and an increase in funding for prison construction and maintenance.

"The state is in a very difficult situation," Snyder said. "It would be inappropriate for the university to complain about the request."

The budget proposal will be taken up by the House committee on education appropriations next week.

Some university officials have speculated that the systemís budget was cut in part because funding often coordinates with new mission cycles. Universities throughout the state are required to re-examine their missions every three to five years.

Whereas the U.M. system is at the end of its last "mission enhancement" cycle, Snyder said other universities are beginning new ones. The U.M. system could have an opportunity for a larger budget next year when the curators develop their own mission enhancement to accompany the 1998-99 budget request.

Although the system did not receive a $2.4 million maintenance and repair request, many of the universityís special programs continue to be funded in the governorís proposal, including support for endowed chairs and $1 million to help create cooperative programs between the U.M. system and other public institutions in the state.

Missourian staff writer Joel Kirkland contributed to this article.

Related link: Budget information


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