AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – Auburn University leaders are sending a clear message to Governor Kay Ivey as one AU trustee calls the Governor’s proposed 2020 budget “not kind” to the land grant university.
“The good news is the proposed Education Trust Fund is the largest education budget in state history totaling $7.1 billion, including $1.2 billion for higher education. The bad news is that her budget was not kind to Auburn. Let me repeat – it was not kind to Auburn.” said AU Trustee Jimmy Rane during Friday’s Auburn University’s Board of Trustee meeting.
Rane says despite record revenues, Auburn received the lowest percentage increase among colleges and universities at 5 percent.
“With record revenues and the largest budget education ever, Auburn received the lowest percentage increase among colleges and universities. While our increase is 5 percent, the University of Alabama’s increase is more than 7.5 percent. Athens State University received the largest increase at more than 11 percent. It’s important to note that Athens State is in the district of State Senator Arthur Orr who chairs the Finance and Taxation Education Committee,” said Rane.
Rane says AU’s President and other administrators have met with the Governor, her chief of staff and the Senate pro tem, Senator Del Marsh, about their concerns.
State Rep. Joe Lovvorn of Auburn says he has questions too, regarding the allocation of funds.
“I have made it known to the Budget Chair in the House that when the budget comes down from the Senate that I do have some concerns and questions on what the basis for prioritizing for these funds. I have reached out to the Governor’s office as well and let them know I do have concerns and I look forward to working with them as this goes through the legislative process,” said Lovvorn.
The Auburn University Board of Trustees, according to Rane’s statement, will continue to work aggressively to improve Auburn’s appropriation for a more equitable treatment among the state’s colleges and universities.
“This week President Leath, Provost Hardgrave, CFO Shomaker, and Steve Pelham met with Education Budget Chairman Orr and Senator Marsh to present our message. After the meeting, Senator Marsh pledged his support to help improve our appropriations while Chairman Orr indicated he had a solution to help improve funding for higher education. Chairman Orr plans to have the Education Budget in committee next week with consideration by the full Senate to follow soon. The legislature has completed 9 of its 30 legislative days, with two-thirds of the Session remaining,” said Rane.
Lovvorn has specific questions regarding the Alabama Commission on Higher Education choice of a new peer group for AU. Peer groups are used to make budget recommendations to the Governor.
“With the peer assessment, you take similar universities across the country that align with what each university stands for. Then, you look at their funding, spending and even enrollees to figure out where funding should be at. This year peers for Auburn University changed. So I reached out to the Commission on Higher Education and the Governor’s office to see what the justification is there and is this a proper alignment for Auburn University to be placed at,” said Lovvorn.
Rep. Lovvorn says lawmakers are still in the early stages of the budgetary process and he is optimistic a solution can be worked out. Lovvorn says Auburn University educates more Alabamians than any other institution and it’s land grant mission impacts all 67 of Alabama’s counties, so he will make sure he advocates for Auburn, students, and staff.