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Thank you and Annapolis update
Dear University of Maryland community,
As we start the first full week of the spring semester, stormy weather has retreated and given way to a somewhat promising fiscal forecast from Annapolis.
First, I would like to express—on behalf of the entire University—our appreciation to the hundreds of people from across the campus whose unfailing dedication and hard work kept the University operating and safe during the Blizzard of 2016.
They toiled around the clock, some getting only a few hours of rest on cots. Ground crews removed the snow; maintenance crews kept equipment running; police provided constant security; food service staff kept the hearth going; the "Campus Farm" crew of staff and students cared for all the animals; students staffed recreational centers to keep cabin fever at bay; an administrative group monitored weather, traffic, and safety reports continuously to help decide whether to open or close the campus.
It took a team effort to prevail against the elements. THANK YOU to all team members.
Next, I would like to provide a brief update on the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
On January 20th, Governor Hogan submitted his state operating budget (which funds day-to-day expenses) and capital budget (which funds buildings and similar projects). As usual, I will be spending a fair amount of time in the coming weeks in Annapolis, meeting with legislators and testifying before legislative committees on the budget and other issues as they pertain to the state's flagship institution. And, it is always enormously satisfying to encounter so many of our alumni and students working in state government.
At this early stage, there is some good news. The Governor's operating budget "buys down" tuition—provides extra funding—in order to promote college affordability. As a result, any tuition increase in FY17 will likely be limited to 2%. He also provided modest but important funding increases to promote student retention and graduation.
His budget proposes a merit increase for state employees. This is welcome news for faculty and staff who have experienced austerity fatigue. Since the Great Recession and its aftermath, there have been several years without a merit increase or any increase at all. We must have the state funding to provide competitive compensation to recruit and retain our outstanding faculty and staff.
The Governor's capital budget includes funding for all of our requests. This funding, leveraged with generous philanthropic support, enables us to forge ahead with the many new campus buildings under construction or in the pipeline. These facilities will greatly advance the University's educational, scholarly, and innovation missions.
Though it is a lean state budget, we are in a much better position than a year ago this time. Back then, the state's fiscal condition led the previous Governor to require mid-year budget reductions.
We appreciate Governor Hogan's commitment to affordability and quality in higher education. We also appreciate the General Assembly's steadfast support of higher education. We will work with legislators to maintain the budget as submitted. But, there is still a long time to go and circumstances can change before the General Assembly adjourns on the 90th day, April 11th.
Wishing you a fruitful and snowless spring semester.
Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland