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July 3, 1996

3.5% pay hike possible in Pitt budget going to board for approval

Under the appropriation bill signed by Gov. Tom Ridge yesterday, Pitt will receive an additional $1.3 million in state funds for educational and general purposes this year as compared to last year, for a total of $132,235,000.

That's the good news for Pitt. The possible not-so-good news for employees is that raises for FY97 may be only 3.5 percent, instead of the 4 percent recommended by the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC).

Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance Art Ramicone said the Chancellor's office on June 14 presented the Board of Trustees' budget committee with a budget plan that contains a 3.5 percent salary increase pool.

The budget plan was developed before Pitt learned it would receive an increase in its state appropriation. The proposed budget was presented to the committee solely for informational purposes, Ramicone added. No vote was taken.

According to Ramicone, the budget committee is scheduled to meet in public on the budget July 18. The spending plan then will be passed on to the board's executive committee, which is expected to vote on the budget at its July 19 public meeting.

Whether the $1.3 million in new general fund money might be used to increase the salary raise pool or for some other purpose is not known, according to Ramicone.

"It's a discussion we have to have with the chancellor," Ramicone said. "No decision has been made at this point. We have a meeting scheduled for next week to discuss it." According to Ramicone, the $1.3 million in additional state funds is approximately enough to either increase salaries by another 0.5 percent, from the 3.5 percent submitted to the budget committee to the 4 percent recommended by UPBC, or decrease the planned tuition hike 0.5 percent, from 4.5 percent to 4 percent.

"That [increasing the salary pool] is a possibility," Ramicone said. "That doesn't necessarily mean that's the direction in which Mark [Nordenberg] is going to head." Since the current budget plan calls for Pitt to use $2 million from a "rainy day" physical plant fund, Ramicone said the chancellor could decide to leave most of those funds untouched and use the $1.3 million in new money in their place.

Ramicone said that if the Board of Trustees' executive committee approves the budget on July 19, salary increases will not show up in employee paychecks until September. Any raises would be retroactive to July 1, he added.

The $1.3 million increase in Pitt's state appropriation was placed in the state budget by the Senate and approved by the House of Representatives after heavy lobbying by Pitt officials. In its budget request to the General Assembly last fall, Pitt sought an increase in state funding of 6.8 percent, from about $147.3 million in FY96 to $157.2 million in FY97. Ridge's proposed budget submitted to the legislature in February contained no increase for Pitt. The University's original budget request also called for a 5 percent increase in salaries and a 3.5 percent hike in tuition. Pitt's appropriation will be divided as follows:

* Education and general funding – $132,235,000.

* School of Medicine – $6,239,000.

* Dental Clinic – $1,030,000.

* Disadvantaged students – $321,000.

* Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic – $7,693,000.

* Center for Public Health Practice – $250,000.

* Rural education outreach – $300,000.

Pitt also requested approximately $1.4 million to develop an information technology program called Pennsylvania Education Network (PEN), aimed at creating a network of voice, video and data links with the state's public K-12 schools, intermediate units, community colleges, public universities and public libraries.

Gov. Ridge has proposed dividing $21 million in PEN funds over three years – $7 million per year – among the four state-related universities (Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln), the 14 state-owned universities and community colleges.

According to Pitt's Director of Commonwealth Relations Ann Dykstra, no decision has been made on how much money Pitt would receive for the project.

–Mike Sajna

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