Status of the New York State Budget Negotiations
Dear Faculty and Staff:
I am writing to share with you the status of the New York State Budget negotiations in Albany with respect to The City University of New York. The Governor and leaders of the Assembly and Senate are working to reconcile the Executive Budget and the "one house budget bills" adopted earlier this month. During my meetings in Albany this week, all indications were that the parties are working hard to meet the statutory March 31 deadline for State budget adoption. We expect final decisions to be made over the next few days, and we are working with our partners and supporters to urge the adoption of important CUNY priorities.
Our top priority continues to be the funding needed to help reach a successful resolution of collective bargaining with faculty and staff. As I have said many times at Trustee meetings, public appearances and in numerous meetings with state and city elected officials, if CUNY is to attract and retain talented faculty—both full-time and adjunct—and staff, we need an agreement with competitive salaries and benefits, including retroactive increases. Without significant support from the state, it’s hard to see how we can be in a position to fund this essential obligation, and certainly not without heavy reliance on tuition and deep reductions in the university’s budget. And to this point, in my testimony before the fiscal committees of the New York State Legislature in February, I reminded legislators that the portion of CUNY’s budget supported by tuition revenue has grown significantly over the last four years.
As I indicated in the Chancellor’s Budget Request presented to the Board of Trustees last November, CUNY also needs significant additional funding to cover other mandatory costs, such as fringe benefits, salary step increments, energy costs and building rentals. We have also asked for improved funding for full-time faculty positions, capital repair and construction, community college base aid and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
When the rational tuition plan was passed in 2011, it was clear that the State Legislature intended that additional tuition dollars would help provide funding for increased full-time faculty, academic programs and student support services important to improve retention and graduation. While tuition dollars were not intended to pay for mandatory costs, the “maintenance of effort” called for in the 2011 legislation has not provided for support of basic, mandatory costs. We are urging the Governor and the Legislature to clarify this important issue.
In February and early March, all campus presidents and their government relations teams—as well as students, faculty, alumni and civic friends—lobbied in Albany or held meetings in legislators’ district offices to stress CUNY’s budget priorities. In addition, borough meetings were organized with assembly members, senators and city councilmembers in conjunction with the borough presidents, to advocate for a strong investment in CUNY. Thousands of emails and letters from students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni have reinforced these efforts.
The 1979 New York State Education Law, which established the organization and funding of the modern City University of New York, eloquently framed the mission of CUNY. “The legislature’s intent is that the City University be supported as an independent and integrated system of higher education on the assumption that the university will continue to maintain and expand its commitment to academic excellence and to the provision of equal access and opportunity for students, faculty and staff from all ethnic and racial groups and from both sexes... The university must remain responsive to the needs of its urban setting and maintain its close articulation between senior and community colleges units... Only the strongest commitment to the special needs of an urban constituency justifies the legislature’s support of an independent and unique structure for the University.” It would be hard to conceive of a university with a commitment to this mission stronger than that of CUNY, which has demonstrated over the years the wisdom of this legislation and the importance of its support by the state.
New York has enormously benefitted from the almost one million alumni, reflecting the great diversity of our city and state, who have graduated from CUNY colleges. After ten years, over 80 percent of CUNY alumni live and work in New York. They contribute to a stable tax base, an educated workforce and strong communities. CUNY’s ability to serve the next generation of New Yorkers with the same commitment and effectiveness as in the past is to a significant degree a function of the state’s investment.
We will continue to deliver these important messages during the next few days of budget discussions and throughout the session when additional decisions on compensation and maintenance of effort may be made. I deeply appreciate the support of our faculty and staff in this effort, and I am grateful for all you do every day for CUNY and New York. Thank you.
James B. Milliken