CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With football season in full swing, it was probably no coincidence that the most talked-about topic of October legislative interim meetings involved college athletics in West Virginia.
A legislative Post-Audit report analyzed data compiled by the NCAA, and found that the athletic programs at Marshall University and seven state Division II colleges required significant taxpayer and tuition subsidies in the 2012-13 school year.
Nearly 30 percent, or $7.88 million, of Marshall’s $28.33 million athletic department budget was subsidized, while the seven Division II schools had $10.72 million of their total athletic department budgets of $24.44 million subsidized.
The highest subsidy among those institutions was at Concord University, where subsidies of $2.7 million accounted for more than 70 percent of the school’s $3.88 million athletic budget, the audit found.
Glenville State, West Virginia State and Bluefield State each had more than 55 percent of their athletic department budgets subsidized by state appropriations and tuition, the audit showed.
Only West Virginia University was essentially self-sufficient, with $31,485 of its $73.47 million athletic department budget subsidized by the state, equal to 0.04 percent.
WVU received more than $10 million of conference revenue as a member of the Big 12 Conference, providing it with a revenue surplus of $4.2 million for the year.
Bluefield State, Fairmont State, Glenville State, and Shepherd also reported small revenue surpluses for the year, while Concord broke even.
Even with the subsidies, three of the athletics programs audited had budget deficits for the year: West Liberty ($1.52 million), Marshall ($749,834), and West Virginia State ($269,494).
Other highlights of the legislative meetings in Charleston:
— Brian Weingart, senior director of financial aid for the Higher Education Policy Commission, told members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability that numbers of high school seniors qualifying for Promise scholarships has been increasing over the past four years, although rates for retaining scholarships has declined slightly during the same period. A total of 10,036 students received Promise scholarships in the 2012-13 academic year, with an average value of $4,699, an increase of 702 students over 2008-09.
More than 44 percent of first-year Promise recipients in 2012-13 came from households with incomes of $90,000 or more, Weingart said, an increase of more than 8 percent from 2008-09. Fifteen percent came from households with incomes of $30,000 or less, down slightly from 2008-09.
West Virginia University had the most Promise scholars on campus in 2012-13, with 4,363 recipients, or 43.5 percent of the total. Marshall was second, with 1,810 scholars, or 18 percent of the total.
— Ted Cheatham, executive director of the Public Employees Insurance Agency, said the health care plan has spent down its reserve fund in lieu of premium increases over the past three years, and has reached the point where the fund will bottom out in 2015-16. He told legislators that is forcing the agency to come up with nearly $40 million of benefits cuts for next year, including $30 million of cuts in plans for current state employees.
PEIA has proposed a menu of options for cutting the $40 million in benefits. Those options primarily involve increasing co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums for a variety of medical and prescription drug benefits, but also include a couple of options for eliminating coverage for services.
PEIA will be conducting six public hearings around the state in November, to get opinions from public employees and retirees on which of the proposed cuts are more acceptable – or less offensive, he said.
— A proposal to move 400 Division of Corrections inmates to a private, for-profit prison in eastern Kentucky is now “way back on the back-burner,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said.
Last fall, the state put out a request for proposals from out-of-state prisons for a contract to house West Virginia inmates, to relieve overcrowding in the state’s prisons and Regional Jails.
Corrections Corporation of America was the only bidder, proposing a $59.80 per day charge for each inmate it would house at the Lee Adjustment Center near Hazard, Ky.
However, since that time, Rubenstein said the state prison population has been trending down, while the state has opened a new 400-bed prison on the site of the old Industrial Home for Youth in Salem, and has additional projects in the works to expand other state correctional facilities.
“The out-of-state (prison) has not been a point of discussion for quite some time,” he told legislators.