COLUMBIA — The UM System Board of Curators' Finance Committee conceded Friday that lingering economic obstacles would make it difficult for the state to fill much of the financial void in the near future.
There is a backlog of more than a $1 billion in facility maintenance and repairs at all four campuses, and the system offers one of the lowest faculty salaries compared to universities similar to those in the UM System.
“We present our requests to keep our needs in front of the General Assembly,” said Nikki Krawitz, vice president of finance and administration at the UM System. “We do understand how difficult this is for the state.”
Curators are requesting more than $516 million in capital appropriations to go toward facility repairs and construction.
To put the issue into perspective, the committee broke down the appropriations request into three tiers of urgency.
Those in the first tier represent the system's top priorities, including more than $67 million for improvements for the MU College of Engineering’s Lafferre Hall and another $67 million for the optometry and nursing colleges at the St. Louis campus.
Altogether, the committee is asking the state to fund more than $261 million in first-tier needs.
“I don’t think any of us believe we’ll get all of these needs met,” said Finance Committee Chairman Don Downing. “But (the state) needs to know what the highest priorities are.”
As part of its state appropriations request for operations, the university system is requesting $40.3 million from the state to help bring UM faculty salaries in line with peer competitors.
Krawitz said faculty salaries at the system's four campuses have continued to languish at the bottom in comparison to similar university systems. Many institutions in other states have continued to increase faculty salaries while the UM System has not had a salary increase in two years, she said.
The committee agreed this issue should remain at the top of the agenda to maintain the state's standards in quality education.
“The biggest ticket item there is getting faculty compensation up to competition,” Downing said.