21-23 State Budget Finalized

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you have been experiencing the joys of summer with family and friends. I write to share that Governor Tony Evers has finalized the state budget, which includes approval of the UW System’s (UWS) 2021-23 biennial operating and capital budgets.

While not as robust as we had hoped, the budget includes some encouraging items for UWS and, in turn, UWM. I thank Governor Evers and our state legislators for their investment in UW-Milwaukee, as well as our business and community partners, alumni, regents, friends, and all of you, for supporting UWM in this budget cycle.

The final 2021-23 operating budget for UWS includes an increase of $42.3M (4.4%) of additional General Purpose Revenue (GPR or state-levied taxes) base funds in FY 2021, including:

  • $21M to cover 70% of the costs of the first year of a 2%/2% pay plan increase for UWS employees over the biennium, which is subject to approval in early fall 2021 by the state Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER). If passed in its current form, UW institutions will need to self-fund the remaining 30% or about $8.4M in FY 2021. Including this pay plan in its entirety, UW institutions will have self-funded about $40M in cumulative pay plan increases over the last several years, without assistance from tuition increases as had been the case historically.  If approved, pay increases will be implemented in January 2022 and January 2023.
  • $17M to pay for anticipated fringe benefits cost increases.
  • $2.5M for the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, a UWS-wide initiative housed at UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences aimed to address state-wide water issues. UWS will determine the allocation of these funds among the institutions.

Other noteworthy budget allocations, outside of the UWS budget:

  • $250,000 in one-time funding to foster collaboration between the UW System, the U.S. Department of Defense, and The Water Council – a global partnership based in Milwaukee to advance water research and economic development
  • $5M in base funding, starting in FY23, to the state Higher Education Aids Board for a Nurse Educator Initiative that will provide fellowships and loan repayment assistance for nursing doctoral students, nursing faculty, and nursing educators at UWS institutions, technical colleges, and private non-profit institutions in Wisconsin.

In addition, the Board of Regents now has restored tuition-setting authority, which means they may end the undergraduate resident tuition freeze that started in 2013-14 and will continue through 2021-22, for nine total years, to date. We have calculated that if there had been a tuition increase of just 1.5% annually over the first eight years of the freeze, UWM’s annual tuition revenues would be about $18M higher as of FY 2021.

The 2021-23 capital budget includes:

  • $7.4M for restoration of the dock wall at our School of Freshwater Sciences
  • $11.4M for renovations to Sandburg’s West Tower
  • $3M for an Active Learning Classroom in Engelmann Hall
  • An unspecified amount for “All Agency” repairs across UWS including UWM.

The dock wall, classroom and repair work will be paid with state tax dollars. The Sandburg renovations are funded through residence hall room fees which are not being increased in 2021-22.  Segregated fees for UWM students are being reduced in FY 2022 from the FY 2021 budgeted amounts.

We are grateful this budget contains positive elements for UWM given the challenging year behind us, particularly funding of a pay plan (which is subject to JCOER approval) and funding for the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin. And, while we are sensitive to student costs, we appreciate that there is the possibility for future tuition increases, after nine years of no such increases.

We must continue our vigilance in managing our budget. Fall 2021 enrollment will have a significant impact on our financial plans. I encourage all of you to think about how you can assist with efforts to confirm students to enroll at UWM – whether it be phone calls and other direct contact as guided by the Division of Enrollment Management or your school, college or academic department, helping students and parents who are visiting during orientation, or sharing UWM’s strengths with your neighbors, family or potential students you encounter.

All units should plan to adhere to the FY 2021-22 budget allocations and continue to carefully monitor all expenses, particularly since there will be no intermittent furloughs to create salary savings for units in FY 2022. There are no longer institution-wide, centrally imposed restrictions on domestic travel, hiring or compensation in the 21-22 fiscal year.  However, we will continue using the current e-workflow approval process that requires approval of travel by the dean/division head or designee, and approval of hiring and compensation by the Office of the Provost for academic units and by the Division of Finance and Administrative Affairs for all administrative units. These workflows provide helpful review of available budget and spending justifications prior to incurring the expenses, allowing UWM to continue to align our spending with revenues.

Thank you for advocating for UWM in this state budget process, as well as your daily contributions that make UWM an essential university for Wisconsin’s future. Whether you teach, make discoveries in a lab, directly serve students, or work in a unit that helps UWM operate as a successful university for living and learning, you are essential to UWM’s success. The state’s investment in UWM is recognition of your efforts. I am grateful for your dedication and care for our students and campuses and look forward to our continued work together to advance UWM.

Best regards,

Mark A. Mone, PhD