UNC scales back partially budget request to Pope

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - University of North Carolina system leaders have pulled back for now on their request for additional construction money for next year, but insist more operating funds are needed beyond what Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget office has suggested.

State Budget Director Art Pope two weeks ago criticized the UNC Board of Governors request to seek 11.3 percent more money when his office provided instructions to state agencies to limit budget expansion requests to no more than 2 percent.

This week, system leaders gave Pope a revised funding request that leaves out $74 million in construction money, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1kOOT9v ). But they’re standing by a request for $108 million more to operate UNC campuses, or 4.6 percent more than this year’s total appropriation.

The memo to Pope from Board of Governors Chairman Peter Hans and system President Tom Ross argued the request is only 1.5 percent more than what UNC spent in 2012-13 and $8.2 million less than spending in 2007-08. The UNC system received $2.5 billion in state operating funds for this fiscal year.

“We are committed to being careful and effective stewards of the resources entrusted to the University,” the memo said. “We also have a responsibility to the people of North Carolina to preserve and strengthen one of the state’s greatest assets.”

Pope said Wednesday he has had constructive meetings with UNC leadership and called the memo “a very positive response and step forward.”

Pope’s office is assembling for McCrory a spending proposal to the General Assembly to adjust the second year of the two-year budget approved last summer. The plan includes UNC’s 17 campuses and the rest of state government. Pope told UNC leaders previously that there are competing priorities such as Medicaid and state employee and teacher raises.

The university system is also developing a more modest request for repairs and renovation to buildings that would put needs in priority order in increments of $30 million, $40 million and $60 million, the newspaper reported. In an interview, Pope didn’t rule out that UNC campuses also could receive state funds for new construction.

The UNC system still wants the General Assembly to repeal mandated tuition increases for out-of-state students and cuts to the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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