UI ag dean proposed $1.5 million budget increase
By John O’Connell
MOSCOW, Idaho — University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Foltz has proposed a Fiscal Year 2016 budget that would increase spending by $1.5 million to invest more heavily in research support staff, grant writing and growing 4-H in the state.
Foltz, who discussed his future budget hopes during a recent conference call with the Idaho Barley Commission, explained the request must still be approved by UI’s provost and president, the State Board of Education and Gov. Butch Otter’s office, before it’s submitted next January for consideration by the state Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
The state cut the CALS budget by 20 percent, or $5.7 million, during the depths of the recession. When the budget outlook began to improve, Otter pledged to prioritize restoring $5 million of those losses over five years. Foltz’s budget, if approved, would see that commitment to fruition.
“He’s made a commitment to the university and the industry that if it’s within his power to restore some of that funding, he’ll do it,” Foltz said.
Due to recessionary cuts, UI implemented a mandate that grants be used to fund half of the salaries of roughly 30 research technicians whose positions had been fully supported by the university. The proposed budget would restore full university funding for those technicians. Another 15 technician positions that are fully funded by outside dollars would not be affected.
“Technicians are the staff who help faculty harvest (research) plots and collects data. They can work in the lab or the field and help do the research and run experiments,” Foltz said.
Foltz has also proposed creating seven to 10 new graduate assistantships for master’s or Ph.D. students, who also play an important role in helping faculty conduct research.
“Consistently as a university we have not had enough of those,” Foltz said.
Foltz said the college’s annual “grant footprint” is about $17 million per year, and CALS has set a strategic goal to increase its income from grants and contracts to $25 million. To help faculty meet the goal, Foltz has proposed adding a new grant-writer position.
Foltz has requested three new staff members to support 4-H in the state’s three regional extension offices in Coeur d’Alene, Caldwell and Idaho Falls. He explained there are statewide staff members located on campus whose sole purpose is devoted to 4-H, but the new positions would be the first exclusively 4H positions stationed regionally. They would be charged with training new 4H staff and volunteers. Foltz said Idaho’s 4-H program has grown from 3,500 volunteers and 30,000 participating youths in 2008 to 5,000 volunteers and 56,000 youths in 2013.
“These positions align with our university’s strategic goal of increasing engagement among youths,” Foltz said.
Foltz would also like to add a new web technician and a half-time marketing and communications manager to help disseminate extension and research information, promote agricultural field days and other college functions.
“We’re optimistic that these (proposed positions) will help the industry, and with the Legislature’s support and the governor’s support, that we’ll leverage those resources to the betterment of both agriculture and stakeholders across our great state,” Foltz said.