By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
Auburn University Trustee Jimmy Rane had some direct criticism for Gov. Kay Ivey and state budget writers about Auburn’s proposed funding allocations. Offering a report on state and federal governmental relations at a Board of Trustee meeting on Friday, Rane said Ivey’s proposed Education Trust Fund budget was “not kind to Auburn. Let me repeat – it was not kind to Auburn.”
Rane’s complaint, and one that is being echoed by the university’s administration, is that Auburn’s five percent funding increase is the lowest increase among state colleges and universities.
“While our increase is five percent, the University of Alabama’s increase is more than 7.5 percent. Athens State University received the largest increase at more than 11 percent,” Rane said.
Auburn officials shared a chart showing proposed state allocations toward colleges and universities, highlighting Auburn’s in comparison with the University of Alabama and Athens State. Rane specifically pointed out the fact that Athens State is in the district of the Senate’s top education budget writer, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
“It’s important to note that Athens State is in the district of State Senator Arthur Orr who chairs the Finance and Taxation Education Committee,” Rane said.
“Our plan is to continue to work aggressively to improve Auburn’s appropriation for a more equitable treatment among the state’s colleges and universities. This week President Leath, Provost Hardgrave, CFO Shomaker and Steve Pelham met with Education Budget Chairman Orr and Senator Marsh to present our message,” he said.
Asked about the comments from Rane, Orr said Rane “may have spoken publicly before being provided all of the relevant facts.”
“As I understand it, Gov. Ivey’s proposed budget was based upon recommendations from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), the state coordinating entity for colleges and universities,” Orr said. “Beginning last year, Dr. Jim Purcell, the relatively new executive director of ACHE, retained a national team of experts and consultants to analyze higher education funding in Alabama and make data-driven recommendations as they are required to do under current law.
“I personally had no input in that process. The first time I saw the recommended budget numbers was after the recent special session, when the governor released her Education Trust Fund proposal.”
Orr noted that Ivey is an Auburn alumna and said the point of using ACHE’s recommendations was to rise above the political jockeying among universities. He also defended the proposed allocations to Athens State.
“I find it a bit concerning that Auburn University, with its $1.3 billion overall budget, begrudges what appears to be a few hundred thousand dollars of additional funding that Athens State, with a budget about 4 percent the size of Auburn’s, might receive as a consequence of the experts’ determination.”
Rane, founder and CEO of Great Southern Wood, chaired Ivey’s inaugural committee. The two have known each other since their time as students at Auburn in the 1960s.
Ivey’s office did not immediately return requests for comment.