Budgetary Restrictions Loom for UNC System In Wake of COVID-19

An argument is brewing as to whether or not the UNC system should tighten it’s belt in the pandemic.

The COVID-19 shutdown has created financial stress for schools within the University of North Carolina system, and Interim President Bill Roper has responded by proposing a decrease in their budget request in a message to the Board of Governors. He stated that he had already “suspended hiring, promotions, and salary actions.” Roper also said that the new budget he is putting forth will represent a $185 million decrease from the original request for an operational budget, and almost a complete removal of capital improvement funds.

Graphic provided by Sen. Jim Perry’s in a tweet about the UNC System decreasing their 2020 budget request.

In a tweet, Republican Sen. Jim Perry said the proposal was, “good fiscal responsibility and foresight to help with the cash burn.” To clarify his remark Perry included a graphic made April 18th with numbers drawn from the Office of the State Controller’s General Fund Cash Watch Report, illustrating a projected budget shortfall for North Carolina. Regarding the graphic Perry stated that “these [numbers] are preliminary, and only estimates, but I believe President Roper was prudent to press pause.”

When reached for comment Democratic Sen. Wiley Nickel told The Cycle that while he had not seen the proposal, he was still waiting for the state’s official revenue forecast. He also pointed out that in January the state had “over $2.25 Billion available for the 19/20 [fiscal year] budget because we didn’t pass a full budget.”

Cash Watch Report for April 20, 2020

When it came to Nickel’s personal preference of how the budget should be prioritized he stated, “I’m of the opinion that we need to make a real investment in public education and we should be talking about greater funding, not less. UNC System employees should have gotten a raise in July and I’m working hard to see that we give them the respect they deserve by way of the budget. If we want to recruit and retain the best educators we need to pay them.”

Sen. Nickel said he expected The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to have their official revenue forecast ready before the Legislative short session begins on April 28th.

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