GREENSBORO — UNCG has joined several other public universities in calling on North Carolina lawmakers to pass a state budget.
UNCG trustees approved a resolution Wednesday urging the legislature "to enact a robust state budget that includes significant and meaningful support for the constituent institutions of the UNC System and compensation measures commensurate with the excellence of its faculty and staff."
The boards of eight other state universities have passed similar measures in the past several weeks. That number includes UNC-Chapel Hill and both UNC System schools in Winston-Salem. N.C. A&T trustees on Wednesday said they will meet Friday morning to take up the matter.
Wednesday's action by UNCG trustees came nearly three weeks after the UNC Board of Governors, the UNC System's governing board, adopted its own resolution calling on state lawmakers to pass two specific bills: the state budget bill and a related bill that would raise salaries for state university and public school system employees statewide. The Jan. 17 resolution also asked trustees at all UNC System schools to pass similar measures.
Both bills cited by the Board of Governors were passed by the Republican-controlled legislature but vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The House overrode the governor's veto in September, but the Senate is still a vote or two short. Republicans couldn't clear the impasse at the legislature's one-day session Jan. 14. The full legislature won't meet again until April 28.
The two major sticking points are Medicaid expansion — Cooper and Democrats want it, but Republicans don't — and teacher pay. The vetoed budget plan includes raises for teachers, but Cooper wants even larger increases.
For UNCG, the stalled budget proposal includes the first $10 million toward an $84 million renovation of UNCG's main library. UNCG leaders say Jackson Library, parts of which date to 1950, is obsolete for a university of more than 20,000 students. The building lacks enough seats and group-study areas for library patrons and outlets for their laptops. Disabled persons can't get to many parts of the library, and the library's nine-story annex lacks a fire suppression system.
The pay raise bill would increase salaries of all UNC System faculty and staff by 4 percent over the next two years.
Unlike the Board of Governors' resolution that called for passage of two specific bills backed by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, UNCG's measure was less specific and intentionally non-partisan. It's not the job of university trustees or officials to take political sides, Chancellor Frank Gilliam said at Wednesday's meeting.
"An argument I would make is that by supporting a specific piece of legislation that seeks to favor one party over the other is not where we want to be, ..." Gilliam said. "If the Ds and Rs were reversed, I would take the same position."
Trustee Ward Russell was the lone vote against the UNCG resolution. He said he supports the intent of the document but said the UNCG board would be making a stronger statement if it urged passage of the two specific stalled bills.
The UNC System office is expected to present the university resolutions to state lawmakers in coming weeks. Andrew Cagle, UNCG's director of state and external affairs, told trustees that lawmakers could put university requests in mini-budgets — spending plans that cover portions of the overall budget bill — or an entirely new budget plan. He said lawmakers haven't said what they might do to resolve the budget stalemate when they reconvene in late April.
State universities aren't without operating monies. Without a new budget to cover the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, UNC System schools are using spending levels from 2018-19.