NAU gets ‘good’ budget, but not everything

It’s not everything Northern Arizona University had hoped for, but the 2006-07 state budget signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano last week provides some essential new dollars and spending flexibility for NAU.

Overall, NAU expects to receive about a 9 percent increase in its appropriation from the state over last year. However, exact funding amounts for such items as NAU’s share of retirement and health insurance have not been finalized.

“Granted, it’s not everything we wanted, but this is a good budget for NAU,” said President John Haeger.

The budget includes a $3.2 million infusion to the university’s base budget, which gives NAU the flexibility to spend the dollars on its priorities. The state budget also provides $2.6 million in one-time funding to NAU for building renewal in 2006-07. Each of the three state universities also will receive $500,000 for the virtual water university, an initiative by the governor to provide a clearinghouse of research and information on water management.

“It’s important to remember that this additional funding comes on top of the $7.2 million the state already has allocated for faculty and staff salaries in FY ’07,” Haeger said. The Legislature approved a pay increase of $1,650 plus merit for all eligible state employees, which took effect in March.

The Legislature also appropriated $1 million to the Arizona Department of Education, which will ensure funds are disbursed to the Arizona K-12 Center for the Master Teacher Program. The program was created by the governor and the state Board of Education to develop master teachers who will mentor and coach new teachers entering positions at Arizona schools with the greatest need, including schools in Native American communities and with all-day kindergartens.

The state budget also includes $5 million for the Arizona Financial Aid Trust. In the past, those funds, which are derived from student tuition, were split 50/50 into an endowment account and in direct disbursement to students. This year, the Legislature decided to disburse 75 percent and retain 25 percent for the endowment account.

Haeger said that given the late approval of the state budget, the university will take the time over the next few months to assess budget priorities and review enrollment projections in preparation for tuition discussions with students in the fall.