Joint legislative panel level-funds UMass system

By Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

The University system is level-funded at $337.8 million under a compromise fiscal 2005 state budget package filed this week by a House-Senate conference committee. The $22.5 billion spending plan must still be approved by both legislative chambers before the bill is sent to Gov. Mitt Romney.

According to an initial analysis by the President’s Office, the conference committee budget adds about $100,000 to the UMass system’s maintenance appropriation and includes an additional $54.67 million reserve to meet the FY2005 costs of the collective bargaining agreements funded during the current fiscal year.

Together, the maintenance appropriation and collective bargaining reserve come to $392,535,034, which is about $82,000 more than President Jack M. Wilson requested.

The conference committee budget also includes $1.7 million in separate funding for Commonwealth College. The honors program received the same amount this year.

The measure also continues a pilot program that allows the Amherst campus to retain tuition paid by out-of-state students and funds fringe benefit costs for employees paid from tuition retention accounts.

The overall package contains level funding for the community college and state college systems as well as the state scholarship program, which includes an earmark of $8.7 million for the UMass system.

Once the House and Senate approve the budget, the measure goes to the governor, who has 10 days to sign the measure, issue vetoes or offer changes. The new fiscal year begins July 1.