MSU proposes record-high budget to Board of Regents

MSU asked the Board of Regents to approve a record-high $225 million spending plan for the upcoming year. The Board of Regents meeting took place Sept. 14 -15 in Billings. The increase from last year’s budget represents a 10 percent overall increase, or an increase of $20.3 million. The Board of Regents meets every September to approve the University System budget and state campus budgets.

Raising the budget reflects an increase in MSU’s enrollment. While exact enrollment numbers will not be released for another week, MSU’s enrollment is expected to hit another record for the ninth year in a row.

MSU’s budget this year totals $570 million, and the University System budget totals $1.5 billion. Both MSU’s and the University System’s budgets reflect an increase of six percent from last year. While MSU’s budget helps fund instructors’ salaries and university operating costs, it does not account for raising salaries for faculty to be more competitive or long-term infrastructure building repair.

MSU’s budget saw a $10 million increase in instruction, bringing the total budget for instruction up $108.4 million. The general fund is the largest of MSU’s budgets. It goes toward running the campus and teaching students. The general fund has increased by $20 million.

The budget reflects that MSU would be hiring 75 professors and instructors, 21 professional employees and 114 classified and hourly employees. MSU’s total number of employees is expected to grow from 3,553 to 3,598.

This year, the regents raised out-of-state student tuition by five percent. MSU’s biggest revenue source is out-of-state tuition, which is expected to total $88.5 million this year. The school plans to continue offering tuition waivers or discounts to 736 out-of-state students, which could potentially lose MSU $2 million in tuition revenue. State legislature and taxpayers will account for $63.3 million in revenue and Montana residents’ student tuition is expected to account for $49 million.

The University of Montana has decreased their general fund budget from last year by $4.1 million with this year’s general fund totalling $149.8 million. UM’s budget cuts come amid continuously dropping enrollment.

MSU President Waded Cruzado asked the Board of Regents if they would approve MSU spending $1.7 million on renovations for Romney Hall. MSU requested funds to renovate Romney Hall in the 2013 and 2015 legislature sessions, however it failed both times. During May of last year, the Board of Regents voted that reconstructing Romney Hall was the University System’s first building priority.

MSU plans to spend the funds before determining if the 2017 Legislature will provide the necessary $28 million for reconstruction. Built in 1922, Romney Hall is used for storage, exercise labs and a few classes — but the majority of the space remains unutilized.

Currently, the building has only four working classrooms. After a remodel, it could have up to 12 classrooms and could seat over 8,000 students a day.

MSU could potentially be ready to start construction on Romney next July — if design planning started soon — and the space could be utilized as early as fall 2019.  However, if the campus were to wait until the Legislature finishes in May, that could delay the project as much as a year.

The funds would either come from MSU’s general fund or from the regents’ designated revolving reserve fund.