BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Monday marked an important day for directors of the University of Maine state system. The board of trustees met to vote on many specifics surrounding next year's $522 million fiscal budget. The discussions included whether tuition rates for in-state students should be kept frozen going into this fall.
Overall the budget is about a million dollars more compared to last year's for the system. Despite that tuition rates at all seven U. Maine schools will remain the same. Directors say they decided to continue tuition rate freeze as a way to keep state education affordable for kids. Administrators say they also hope by recruiting more students they will be able to make up the small increase in the budget.
"If we can improve some enrollment across the board...that makes a huge difference in terms of balancing the budget," said Rebecca Wyke, who is the vice chancellor of finance for the U. Maine system.
At the same time on Monday the trustees board did take many complaints from the teacher's union for the U. Maine system. The faculty union for the U. Maine system has been working without a new contract for what is almost two years. At this point, talks between administrators and faculty have reached a standstill. Among their demands, teachers are asking for an annual pay increase of four percent going forward.
"We just really need more money just to keep even with the cost of living," said Paul Christiansen, who is a music professor at the University of Southern Maine, "and it's not as though the money isn't there. There's plenty of money in the system."
U. Maine administrators disagree however. Some pointed out that keeping tuition rates frozen for students does come at a cost.
"So it puts us in a situation of not having increases in our income..some costs going up that we can't control so it makes it difficult to provide the kind of increase that the faculty feel would be appropriate," said Tracy Bigney, who is the chief human resources officer for the U. Maine system.
Administrators and faculty are planning to meet again in July.