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Bascom Hall on the UW-Madison campus.UW-Madison would receive a smaller percentage of funding than usual under the UW System's budget proposal.

University of Wisconsin System officials are planning to give UW-Madison a smaller share of new state funding under an operating budget proposal released this week.

Each System institution stands to receive more money from the state under the spending plan, but the proposed operating budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year calls for taking $6.5 million in new funding that would have gone to UW-Madison and distributing it among other campuses.

Leaders of the flagship institution say they are willing to take a smaller percentage of funding as a “one-time measure” to help campuses that have been hit hard by budget cuts in prior years, but added they are concerned about the size of the reduction.

It could be the latest sign that UW officials want institutions outside of Madison to receive a greater percentage of state funding in the future.

The System’s $6.2 billion operating budget, which the Board of Regents is set to approve during its meeting Thursday in Madison, also increases student fees and on-campus housing costs, while holding tuition flat as mandated by legislators.

Although lawmakers have not finished the 2017-19 state budget, System officials based their one-year operating budget on the UW funding plan approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee in May.

If that plan passes, the System would receive an additional $25 million per year that was lapsed from UW’s funding in the prior state budget. The state would also provide $36.2 million over two years in other new funding, including $26.3 million in the second year of the budget that would be tied to how UW institutions perform in certain metrics.

Under the operating budget proposal released Monday, UW officials would not distribute the $25 million increase using the enrollment-based formula they typically use to divide money among institutions — a plan that directs the lion’s share of funding to UW-Madison.

Instead, they would use a different formula that shrinks UW-Madison’s allocation of the new money by more than two-thirds: Whereas the campus would have received an additional $9.4 million under the prior formula, it stands to receive $2.9 million.

Other System campuses would in turn get bigger shares of the state money — UW-Milwaukee would be the biggest beneficiary, receiving an additional $1.7 million.

UW-Whitewater would get an extra $1 million, while other System institutions would receive between $205,300 and $423,600 in additional funding.

“We want all our institutions to be strong, and this one-time distribution of the $25 million lapse that was returned to the UW System will help support our campuses,” System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said.

UW-Madison will receive about $2 million in other new taxpayer money for several initiatives in the state budget, including funding for cancer research and a controversial new public policy center named for former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas wrote in an email that Chancellor Rebecca Blank understands the financial challenges other System institutions are facing and is “willing to share some portion” of the funding her campus typically receives.

“But a redirection of this size is deeply concerning,” Lucas added, “and will make it even more difficult for the campus to make the kinds of investments needed to maintain its excellence.”

System officials wrote in their budget proposal that the plan distributes funding based on the “unique missions” of UW institutions, as well as their abilities to generate revenue from sources other than the state government. Budget documents submitted to the Regents and posted online prior to their meeting did not specify how the new formula weighted those factors.

It would not be the first time the System has tweaked its funding formula in a way that gives UW-Madison less money — UW leaders similarly directed more funding to other campuses in their operating budget two years ago.

Higher education experts have speculated that System officials are looking to change how they distribute funding among campuses in the wake of state budget cuts that have hit smaller institutions and those with declining enrollment, such as UW-Milwaukee and UW-Eau Claire, particularly hard. UW-Milwaukee faculty have called for their campus to receive more of the System’s funding.

While UW-Madison made cutbacks in response to reduced state funding, it has other sources of revenue cushioning the blow that other campuses lack, such as the money it pulls in from growing pools of out-of-state and international students and its large alumni base.

Marquis acknowledged in March that UW officials were considering changes to the funding formula, but said at the time that no decisions had been made.

Budget raises fees, room rates

While tuition for in-state undergraduates will not rise under a freeze lawmakers are expected to extend through the next two schools years in the state budget, the System’s spending plan calls for new increases to other student costs.

Segregated fees, room rates and meal plan costs would rise by a combined average of $219 per student around the System.

At UW-Madison, segregated fees are set to tick up by $45 to fund new programs and positions at University Health Services addressing mental health on campus and to pay for new equipment that will fill the Southeast Recreational Facility after a renovation that starts later this summer.

A $226 per-student increase to on-campus housing costs at UW-Madison is being driven by the renovation of Witte Hall and a project replacing doors and locks in dorm buildings, according to budget documents.

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Nico Savidge is the higher education reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.