State Regents approve $900 million budget proposal


Friday, October 31st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will seek more than $900 million in state appropriations for fiscal year 2005.

The regents voted unanimously Thursday for a $902,448,565 budget proposal, $134.6 million more than last year's adjusted amount of $767.9 million.

The money will fund academic programs at the state's 25 public colleges and universities and two higher learning centers.

``We're not in the cutting mode like we were this time last year, but we'll have to wait and see,'' said Maryanne Maletz, vice chancellor for budget and finance for the regents.

Funding for state agencies has decreased in the past few years because of a lagging economy and lower tax revenues. Higher education institutions saw funding cuts of 9.9 percent this past fiscal year.

After the budgeting process ended in May, lawmakers passed on an additional $8,697,683 to Oklahoma's higher education system, which decreased the cut to 9.2 percent. The money came from an unexpected increase in tax revenues.

The regents' proposal includes a supplemental request for $27,384,073, $8.2 million of which will help fund a tuition waiver program known as Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program.

Regents had to reallocate $6.3 million to avoid a default of the program during the past school year.

The supplemental funding request includes $8.4 million to help Oklahoma's public colleges and universities retain professors leaving the teaching ranks due to retirement, attrition or school budget constraints, Maletz said.

The higher education system has lost 156 full-time faculty members over the past two years, she said.

``During these times of increased state enrollment, we need to hang on to all of the qualified faculty we have,'' she said.

The supplemental funding will pay for $1,500 stipends for 5,616 full-time faculty members.