UNCC gets energy funding

UNC Charlotte received much of what it asked for in the state budget approved this week.

The school received $57.2 million to build the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, which will train engineers to build and run power plants, particularly nuclear reactors. The center will add to Charlotte's expanding ties to the nuclear energy industry, and launches in the midst of a heightened national search for alternative and cheaper energy.

David Dunn, vice chancellor for university relations, said the energy center had been viewed favorably outside the university as plans took shape in recent years but no one outside the energy industry was urging the school to hurry.

“Today, people are asking how soon we can get it done,” Dunn said.

Lawmakers appropriated $19 million last year for the center's design and planning.

The General Assembly also handed out $34 million to the university system to pay for a spike in enrollment. UNC Charlotte gets $5.8 million of that.

University officials were particularly pleased given that funding for all of the schools was used, as it has been in the past, in legislative gamesmanship during the budget process. The budget passed by the House provided less than half as much money for enrollment growth as what the final budget included. Senate leaders complained that House budget writers were using the university money as leverage, knowing that the Senate ultimately would increase it.

Legislators also gave UNC Charlotte $2.4 million for planning for a new science building, and the school will receive a portion of $6 million devoted to improving security and safety at all 17 UNC campuses.

The General Assembly compromised on how much money to give to Johnson & Wales University's Charlotte campus. The private culinary school will receive $1.5 million toward the $10 million that legislative leaders promised as an incentive to establish the campus in 2004.

Johnson & Wales already received $6 million, and the House budget approved last month included $2 million more. The Senate's version cut that to $1 million, and lawmakers ended up splitting the difference.