Higher faculty salaries and a more advanced computer system head the list of requests George Mason University wants the state legislature to approve for the next two years.
University president W. George Johnson said GMU has asked Northern Virginia legislators to introduce several amendments to the university's proposed $78.9 million operating budget, including one that would boost faculty salaries.
The proposed budget calls for a 4.5 percent rise in each of the next two years but GMU is hoping for a 9 percent hike each year.
The university did not ask for the full 9 percent in the budget it submitted to the legislature because of a State Council of Higher Education directive to all state colleges to request no more from the state's general fund than a 4.5 percent salary increase for faculty and staff.
The proposed university budget represents a 33 percent increase over the last biennium budget of $59.7 million, according to Morrie Scherrens, GMU vice president for financial affairs.
Salaries and fringe benefits for the faculty and staff now account for nearly 73 percent of the proposed budget, Scherrens said. If the 9 percent raise--which the State Council on Higher Education later agreed was justified for GMU--is approved, it would cost the state an additional $2.2 million for the two years, he said.
Beyond the $78.9 million operating budget, Johnson said, GMU also has asked for $800,000 to augment its computer system, $150,000 to expand its library system and $450,000 to add faculty and staff positions.
The rapidly growing university, located in Fairfax County, is also seeking nearly $40 million for capital improvements, Johnson said. Legislators are being asked to push for $16 million to build a performing arts center and a university center to house administrative offices, $11 million for a humanities building and $12 million for various projects ranging from completing a gym to building and renovating security offices and a warehouse for shipping and mailing.
"We know things are going to be tight," Johnson said. "But there's a demonstrable need for these (capital improvements). We desperately need faculty offices, more classrooms and a large meeting area.
"I know we can't reasonably expect to get it all, but perhaps we can get some money to get some of these projects started."
In addition to direct financial requests, Johnson said, GMU is also seeking authority to finance projects through revenue bonds, a process in which the state would issue bonds for capital improvements and the university would gradually pay back the state.
Johnson said GMU would like the authority to build two new dorms with a total 500-bed capacity, a project that could cost $8 million, and to construct a 2,000-space parking lot at a cost of nearly $2 million.