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Proposed fund hikes would benefit NCI
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Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Chairman Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, presents an overview of the House budge amendments Sunday at the State Capitol in Richmond. (AP)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

By BY MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A roughly 50-percent increase in state funding is proposed for the New College Institute (NCI) for each of the next two years to cover costs of maintaining its new building and hiring five new employees.

House and Senate budget proposals unveiled Sunday include $1.5 million in base funding a year for NCI — the same amount it received in recent years, according to Executive Director William Wampler.

Both chambers’ spending plans also include an extra $440,037 proposed by former Gov. Bob McDonnell in general operating funds for NCI’s new building under construction on the Baldwin Block in uptown Martinsville.

The three-story, roughly 52,000-square-foot building, the first to be built specifically for NCI, is expected to be completed in May. It is to house new programs being created in advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurism and health care technology, as well as the institute’s administrative offices.

The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and an uptown visitors center also plan to occupy the building, which will have a “grand hall” for public events.

Along with McDonnell’s contribution, the House proposal contains an extra $290,000 for new employees. The Senate proposal includes $289,098.

The new workers, according to Wampler and State Sen. Bill Stanley, are a facilities manager, marketing/communications officer, events coordinator, advanced manufacturing equipment supervisor and security supervisor.

Stanley, R-Glade Hill, and Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, sponsored their respective chambers’ budget amendments that provide the funds beyond McDonnell’s contribution and the base funding. Both are on NCI’s board.

Asked why the Senate’s extra contribution is $902 less than the House’s, Stanley said it is based on NCI’s needs as conveyed to him by Wampler.

“Everything is negotiable” before the amount that NCI actually receives is determined, Stanley noted.

“I don’t think the difference (the House’s extra dollars) is going to make us or break us,” Marshall said.

“The more money in the House budget is a good thing. I hope they go with it,” added Stanley, referring to the assembly giving NCI the extra $902.

Altogether, NCI would get about $2.23 million if either the House or Senate proposal is approved. That is about a 49 percent increase beyond the state funding it received for the current fiscal year, Wampler said.

He said the institute is grateful for all of the funding it gets.

With budgets being tight, he said, “we’re very pleased that the governor and the Legislature are willing to make increased investments (in NCI). We believe ... (they) understand” the need for the institute and its programs.

NCI was established in 2006 to increase the availability of higher education programs in Southside, the only region of Virginia without a state-supported university. At that time, a study indicated, about 11 percent of the region’s adults had four-year degrees — the lowest percentage of any region.

The willingness to provide additional funds shows lawmakers’ “continuing commitment ... to having NCI in Martinsville,” Stanley added.


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