Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2014 budget, unveiled during his recent State of the State address, allows us to launch a conversation about how state funding decisions will affect our campus this year.

While the Tennessee General Assembly will hone the final budget before members approve it in late spring, I can share observations that will help you anticipate news about building projects, raises and tuition increases in the next fiscal year.

We are excited that the governor is proposing approval of the planning phase of our Laboratory Science Building, a long-awaited project that has been part of our master plan. The $82 million project requires the university to match $18.75 million, of which $4 million already has been identified to execute the planning phase. Under the current budget we would also receive $3.2 million to continue with academic building upgrades.

The governor’s budget also addressed salary increases. It contains a proposal for 1.5 percent across-the-board raises that will be partially funded by the state and that will require the university to generate the remainder.

Gov. Haslam stated that higher education has a responsibility to hold down tuition increases to ensure students have access to quality programs. He emphasized that universities should hold tuition increases to a minimum, allowing for increases up to 6 percent. The Tennessee Board of Regents makes final approval of tuition increases at its regularly scheduled board meeting in June.

The governor proposed about $1.7 million in outcomes/productivity funding for TTU. We will be using our Flight Plan to help us define and prioritize actions that will allow us to excel in areas critical to maximizing funding. Flight Plan’s four focus areas will guide us in transforming undergraduate advising, creating new faculty positions, promoting undergraduate and graduate research, and supporting excellence in information technology.

I’m encouraged by the governor’s proposed budget, but there is still much work to do and challenges to be met. Please take every opportunity to participate in our planning for the future and to give me your feedback as we move forward.

Go Eagles!