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OU REGENTS approve $1 billion+ operating budget

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LAWTON, Okla. (AP) _ The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents has approved an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the largest in the history of the school.

The regents signed off on the $1.02 billion budget Tuesday at their monthly meeting at Cameron University. The money will be divided among three campuses, with $460 million going to the Norman campus and $560 million for the health sciences centers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

``The budget has been a tough one to work on this year,'' OU President David Boren told regents.

Utility costs that increased $3.8 million, a 15 percent increase in health benefits and a 20 percent increase in retirement benefits complicated the process.

Boren said greater support for endowed positions, legislative approval for regent control of tuition and an additional $4 million in state appropriations will help the university maintain its momentum.

Boren estimated only 20 percent of the health center's budget and 40 percent of the Norman campus' budget consists of state appropriations. The remainder of the budget reflects an increase in research grants obtained by researchers, endowments and other outside revenues.

The money will fund a 2 percent across-the-board raise and a 2 percent merit raise for faculty and staff on the Norman campus. Bizzell Memorial Library also will get a $900,000 increase in funding.

Boren credited university staffers for finding ways to stretch the university's budget.

He said increased support for endowed positions, legislative approval for regent control of tuition and an additional $4 million in state appropriations will help the university maintain its momentum.

The school could see money come from land it has owned along Interstate 35 since the end of World War II. The strip includes a dirt mound, called ``Mount Williams'' by locals, and was part of a rifle range during the war.

Development of the land is now possible due to a lifting of decades-old restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration. But Boren said he doesn't expect the land to be developed anytime soon.

``It has no zoning, it has no roads or water,'' Boren said. ``We're not in a rush on it. We'll need to see what comes along.''

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