With the conclusion of the Texas Legislative session earlier this week, I wanted to provide you with an update on how UTSA fared, given the uncertainties of the state budget.
As you may know, early in the session lawmakers determined that belt-tightening would be needed to maintain a balanced budget while funding essential programs and services. As a result, the budget for public higher education came under careful scrutiny.
Each chamber developed its own budget proposal. The state Senate adopted a measure that would have eliminated funding for what is known as ‘special items’ – in our case, institutional enhancement initiatives that support faculty, the TexPREP program, and the operations of the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute, the Small Business Development Center, the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Texas State Data Center. The House of Representatives proposal maintained funding for those items, but at a somewhat reduced level.
In the end, the House and Senate negotiated a budget for the next biennium that retains special items but reduces their funding by 34 percent from current levels. After that, special item funding will likely be realigned or eliminated altogether.
While this presents fiscal challenges for us, we did receive a bit of somewhat better news. Overall, our general revenue budget for the next two years will increase slightly, approximately 1.7 percent, although we recognize it is not enough to accommodate our expected growth.
The Legislature also provided limited financial relief to support the Hazlewood Legacy program, which provides education to the families of active and retired military members. The program’s impact on UTSA is $14 million this fiscal year.
Additionally, lawmakers increased funding for the Texas Grants program by $71 million. This statewide program supports eligible students in need of financial assistance for their college education. More than 70 percent of UTSA students rely on some form of financial aid.
Anticipating that we would end up with a tight budget, our leadership team has been working on contingency plans to reduce operational expenses and plan for the future. The university’s vice presidents are currently developing strategic recommendations and will be prepared to implement them in time for the Fall semester.
I remain optimistic that, working together, we can maintain the highest levels of educational support for our students and retain our exceptional faculty and staff with competitive salaries. I welcome your input during this process and will keep you up to date on our plans.
This was a difficult legislative session but, because of your ongoing commitment to excellence and the leadership of the Bexar County legislative delegation, we will continue to deliver the best outcomes for UTSA.
Thank you for your support.
Pedro Reyes, Ph.D.
President Ad Interim, The University of Texas at San Antonio