University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric told the state that without replacing the federal revenue that’s currently propping up the university’s budget the university won’t be able to cover salaries and will have to increase tuition 19% under Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal.
The Lamont administration said Wednesday that the university knew the federal aid was temporary and should not have been used for any ongoing expenses.
“We’ve given them additional ARPA in this budget, for two more years on top of the baseline appropriation that we hope will taper them down, but they should not have built that into their base,” Lamont’s Budget Director Jeffrey Beckham said. “We’re attempting to get them to a more-sustainable place.”
Lamont’s budget funds the university at around $887 million over the next two years, including the health center and all of its campuses.
But that didn’t stop Maric from sending a letter out to the university community and the media defending the need for additional state support.
“Unfortunately, the appropriations proposed for UConn and UConn Health fall far short of what is necessary to adequately fund the university, carry out our critical public health mission most effectively, and fully cover the sizeable costs the state seeks to pass along to us,” Maric wrote. “A preliminary review of the numbers indicates that if enacted as proposed, the governor’s budget would leave the university with a shortfall of $159.6 million next year and $197.1 million the following year compared to the budget requests made by UConn and UConn Health.”
Maric even threatened, according to The Daily Campus, to pull out of the university’s current deal with the XL Center in Hartford as a pushback against the potential budget cuts. UConn basketball and hockey teams play at the arena and draw large crowds that spend money at local businesses before and after the game.
The Lamont administration and lawmakers were not impressed with the arguments.
House Speaker Matt Ritter was asked about the remarks during an unrelated press conference on Thursday. Ritter said he received more emails about the UConn comments than any other element prompted by Lamont’s two-year budget proposal.
“We all — me included — make mistakes sometimes,” Ritter said.
Ritter said he spoke to UConn’s athletic director on Wednesday and believed the school was still committed to play at the XL Center. Meanwhile, the state plans to renovate the facility, making it more modern.
“The answer is: is UConn going to play in Hartford? You betcha. Do we agree with the president that we’ve got to help them with this budget? You betcha,” Ritter said. “All is forgiven,” he said later. “We move on. I’ll be there on the 21st for the St. John’s women game.”
Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said the situation could be overwhelming for a new president.
“Sometimes all these things come, and she’s new, coming at her at one time — it’s rough,” Walker said.
During a separate press conference, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said that Lamont had not proposed to cut UConn’s ongoing funding but instead just allowed temporary federal funding to expire.
“This governor is funding them actually over what they’ve received when you take out the federal money,” Candelora said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of agencies in that very same position. This is the difficult conversations that we knew were coming when the federal money expires.”
Candelora cautioned against UConn threatening to pull out of the XL Center.
“Hartford has invested a lot in UConn. They should be giving back and investing in Hartford,” he said.
Maric said in the last 25 years, “we have added more than 10,000 students, but did not add administration and management – only 2.3% of UConn’s workforce are senior administration.”
She said they are already doing their own cutting and consolidating and raising funds privately.
“We simply cannot provide less while asking our students to pay more,” she added.
As a result of the budget proposal, UConn’s student government group, is walking out of its classes and headed to the state Capitol on Feb. 15.
“When he cuts our budget, he kills dreams, he kills what Connecticut could be. Every dollar that Lamont adds to our tuition is another local business not created, another taxpayer lost, and another problem left unsolved,” Mason Holland, student body president, wrote in a letter.