By Abby Vander Graaff
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming will make a supplemental budget request of $54.65 million to the Wyoming Legislature for unforeseen financial needs this academic year.
If approved, UW officials say the additional money will account for gaps in the university budget created by inflation and help address low wages for university staff and faculty members.
“This is very much in line with what you may have seen in previous years,” UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin said of the request.
He said it’s normal for the university to make supplemental budget requests because it is difficult to know exactly how much money will be needed at the time the Legislature makes its budget allocations. The requests also are tailored to the amount of money and programs the Legislature has in any given year.
This year, Gov. Mark Gordon noted that budget requests should be emergency in nature, with some flexibility in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing issues with inflation.
The request includes more than $13 million to go toward capital construction projects that have been impacted by inflation. The projects include buying scientific equipment in the new Science Initiative Building and building a roundabout at 22nd Street.
An additional $4.3 million is requested to help with inflation in other areas, such as campus utilities, insurance premiums and operating costs of UW extension centers.
The largest chunk of the request, $14.5 million, is earmarked for increasing salaries of university staff and faculty. If approved, the university will increase wages to a minimum of $15 per hour, as well as relative increases for higher-paid employees.
“We understand that there is some movement in the Legislature for a possible second round of salary increase funding, and we want to make sure they’re considered,” Baldwin said.
The request comes at a time when staff at the university have voiced concerns over issues with low wages and overwhelming workloads during UW Board of Trustees meetings. There are now several hundred employees at the university who make less than $15 per hour, Baldwin said.
While the university announced base pay raises for employees in May, the increases were more of a “Band-Aid” fix than a change that adequately addresses issues of inflation and increased housing costs, UW Staff Senate President Tim Nichols told trustees during a meeting in July.
The newest round of raises will only be given if the supplemental budget request is approved and would go into effect in the upcoming fiscal year, Baldwin said.
The proposal will be discussed with the governor in September or October and go before the Joint Appropriations Committee in December, according to UW Board of Trustees documents.