Story by Zoe Naylor / Contributing Writer
Governor Bill Lee presented his proposed 2022-23 budget to the Tennessee General Assembly on Jan. 31.
If approved by the General Assembly, the budget would prioritize “good jobs, great schools, and safe neighborhoods,” according to Lee’s website.
Proposed in the budget are $1.1 billion in capital improvements funding for all higher education institutions. Passing the budget would make this allocation “the largest investment in capital in the State’s history,” stated President Sidney McPhee’s website post on the budget.
The budget proposed $108.2 million be allocated toward capital maintenance funding for higher education, which would fund five projects Middle Tennessee State University submitted. The projects would total $7.16 million, including lighting updates, building mechanical improvements, campus-wide access security renovations, elevator maintenance and building exterior updates.
Suggestions for using these funds include a renovation project for Kirksey Old Main and Rutledge Hall, projected to cost $54.3 million. That price tag includes $2.4 million in University-required matching funds.
MTSU is also set to receive funds for $62.2 million Aerospace Campus, the cost of which includes $5 million in University matching funds. After these suggested renovations, new projects would total $116.5 million. More than $109 million of that would be funded by the new capital appropriations in the Governor’s proposed budget.
The budget includes several allocations for infrastructure, system improvements and renovations for public higher education institutions — the first of which is net operating appropriations, suggested to increase by $7.5 million. This amount was calculated through the funding formula, which “allocates state funds to Tennessee’s public colleges and universities based on performance,” according to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.
$170 million was proposed for upgrading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems at public higher education institutions. If passed, MTSU would have access to $20 million of the funds and use it to upgrade the campus ERP system. This action would mean improved efficiency in operating systems across campus, including user interfaces and better consistency.
If passed, the budget would allocate $1.2 million to MTSU to help cover increases in group health insurance premiums. It would also partially fund a four percent salary pool, totaling $4.6 million. The University is awaiting clarification on the exact requirements of the salary pool, but it would mean an increase in performance-based payment incentives for employees. Incentives could mean an increase in faculty retention rates.
“Improving employee salaries has been my number one priority for several years, and it is encouraging to see the Governor taking steps toward improvement,” reads President McPhee’s website.
The budget included a one-time $2 million funding to assist with an established 3+4 partnership between MTSU and Meharry Medical College. The fast-track program is for eligible students to receive an MTSU undergraduate degree and an MMC medical degree. The funds would help with financial aid for those in the medical education program, helping them with both financial needs and receiving their degrees.
The GIVE HOPE Expansion Act of 2022, if passed, would increase the maximum annual HOPE scholarship award to $5,100 to students at four-year schools and $3,200 to students at two-year ones. Additionally, the GIVE program of the Act would increase access to dual enrollment for high schoolers and expand eligibility for the HOPE nontraditional and Foster Child Tuition programs. These programs could increase enrollment at MTSU by improving access to dual enrollment programs, which could get more high schoolers interested and involved in higher education.
To pass the proposed 2022-23 budget, the state General Assembly must vote to approve it after deliberating within the Finance, Ways and Means Committees in each house of the legislature and making any amendments.
If passed, the 2022-23 budget will focus on “economic stimulus, smarter investments, and preparing for the future,” reads the website of the Office of the Governor. As a result, MTSU will have many financial resources available to make welcome improvements.
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