Rising utility costs continue to impact UW budget
By Bryan Gadow
In a display of bipartisan support for the university, the Legislature's
Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) agreed June 30 to help the UW
System cope with a budget shortfall in its 2003-04 utilities budget.
The committee members voted unanimously to transfer more
than $10 million
in state funding from the 2005 fiscal year to the current
budget to cover a gap in charges for the university’s use of fuel
Although the Committee’s vote for the funds transfer
represents a short-term solution to the utility challenge, it also
highlighted the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation
between the UW System
and the state. During their deliberations, JCF members questioned
the model that the State Department of Administration (DOA) uses
to estimate future energy costs.
“We need a better way to deal with [these utility costs],” Rep.
David Ward (R-Fort Atkinson) said to DOA staff at the June hearing.
Department of Administration officials replied that while the UW System
has made strides to control its energy usage, the university and other state
agencies are still dealing with the impact of a natural gas price spike
Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson) asked how closely DOA officials have worked
with UW System in estimating energy costs for each fiscal year. State Budget
Director David Schmiedcke indicated that DOA and the UW System will continue
to work together to develop a more effective model to predict future energy
While Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) agreed that continued cooperation
was necessary to solve this problem, he suggested that DOA and the UW System
begin to forecast utility costs from a 10-year model, rather than a more
traditional 3-year perspective. Kanavas asked DOA and UW officials to return
to the committee in January with a better model for estimating energy costs.
The state and the university are likely to address potential solutions
to the utility budget shortfall in the 2005-07 state biennial budget.
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