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Budget proposal stuns university officials

Gov. Bob Martinez on Thursday delivered a budget proposal that left the state's higher education officials feeling short-changed and screaming for their lobbyists. His proposal calls for a 14.6 percent increase in state spending, to $26.2-billion for the 1990-91 budget year. The state university system is to receive a 4.8 percent increase, and much of that money will come from tuition increases.

The Board of Regents, which prepared its own proposed budget, had hoped for a 15.24 percent increase.

At the University of South Florida (USF), budget officials were furious. Already, they are setting up meetings with state legislators.

"We have been fortunate in recent years to receive increases of 12 to 13 percent a year to meet the needs of our growing student population," said Albert Hartley, USF's administrative vice president. "The progress that the Board of Regents had hoped to make in improving our educational system will be dramatically curtailed by this kind of budget."

Martinez proposes trimming university salaries, benefits and other expenses by $8.8-million. At the same time, he hopes to allocate $90-million to capital funds for new construction.

Hartley said the proposed budget increases would barely keep pace with inflation if Florida's nine universities were to remain at their current size. And they won't _ the state's colleges grow by more than 4,500 students a year.

Among the most dramatic differences between the regents' requests and Martinez's recommendations:

The regents said they need an additional $11-million to cover inflation for current expenditures. Martinez wants to give them $2.5-million for inflation.

The regents asked for 27 different spending increases for academic improvements, including high technology research, medical education and art studios, for a total of $68.3-million. Martinez recommended funding only two of the 27 items, for $1.8-million.

The regents asked for $51.9-million to improve physical facilities such as libraries and hospital equipment. Martinez recommended giving them $5.3-million.

Less than half of the new money that USF receives _ 1.73 percent of the 4.8 percent increase _ will come from general revenue and lottery funds, according to the proposal. The rest is to come from tuition increases of 8 percent for Florida residents and 18 percent from out-of-state students.