When evaluating the University of Wisconsin System’s share of the state budget, it doesn’t take a math professor to see that the subtraction of a negative equals a positive.

After enduring cuts in the past two state budgets, including $250 million in the current budget, higher education leaders are pleased to hear lawmakers say no further cuts are planned for the budget to be hammered out this legislative session. Indications from legislators and Gov. Scott Walker that funding levels for the state’s public colleges and universities will be preserved are positive signs, UW Colleges Chancellor Ray Cross said. In fact, for the first time in years, schools may be allowed modest budget increases to accommodate rising costs for fuel and utilities.

“It shows support of the university system,” Cross said. “The governor’s pretty serious about that, and I think the Legislature will be, too.”

Cross met Wednesday with University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County leaders, including Dean Tom Pleger, before delivering a speech to the Baraboo Rotary Club. Higher education leaders hope the new state budget will allow campuses like UW-Baraboo to increase pay for valued faculty. Schools find themselves trapped between their goals to retain top teachers and to make tuition affordable. Right now, star faculty members are getting plucked by other schools.

Pleger said UW-Baraboo has lost three faculty members in the past four years to jobs on other campuses that paid 10 to 25 percent more.

“We’re losing key faculty we shouldn’t be losing,” Cross said.

Campus leaders hope legislators who have made job creation their top priority will see higher education as an investment in the workforce.

“We need some long-term thinking,” Cross said. “You cannot eat your seed corn.”

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