“Other states don’t come after our weakest faculty. They come after our very best,” he told members of the House and Senate appropriations committees after a presentation on the system’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Gov. Nathan Deal is recommending lawmakers give the system an increase of $42 million, the result of adding money to accommodate more students and subtracting 3 percent like every other state agency.
Of the $42 million increase, half will go to cover benefits for employees and retirees, said John Brown, the university system’s financial officer.
“It’s not all free money. It’s just keeping up with what’s already out there,” he said.
Deal disagreed with some of the system’s spending requests. He wants to cut nearly $3 million from the system’s maintenance budget instead of the nearly $9 million increase administrators requested. He rejected Armstrong Atlantic State University’s satellite campus in Hinesville to serve Fort Stewart soldiers even though the city is putting up $6 million of the cost. He is calling for no funding to equip seven buildings under construction at various campuses, including the veterinary medicine building at the University of Georgia.
“We hate the notion that we’re waiting on equipment,” Brown said.
Most of the committee members’ questions focused on faculty salaries, which haven’t increased in five years.
UGA salaries now rank ninth out of a dozen comparable schools. The state’s two-year colleges ranked first in 2000 but are now 11th.
Huckaby warned that freezing wages harms morale and invites competing states to recruit from Georgia schools.
“What it does is send the message to other parts of the country that Georgia is a good place to come. We have a fertile field,” he said.
The committees were in the first of three days of hearings with witnesses from the two dozen largest state agencies. The rest of the Legislature is in recess this week.