Taxpayers are constantly told that more money is needed for education but how often do they hear about allegations like this?

Patrick Marley and Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel report.

Outrage grows as University of Wisconsin System admits it ‘did not draw attention’ to cash

Trying to balance damage control and candor, University of Wisconsin System officials acknowledged Monday they had been less than forthcoming about $648 million in cash spread over hundreds – perhaps thousands – of accounts at individual campuses.

Outraged legislators, still reeling from a report that found the system had squirreled away more than a quarter of its unrestricted budget, clambered for a two-year freeze on tax support and tuition – a move that would reduce by $210 million what the system had hoped for in the next two years.

Lawmakers said the findings of the report by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Friday were inconsistent with UW’s arguments in recent years that it needed more money in the face of state budget cuts.

“Is it incompetence or arrogance on the part of the UW System? It seems like it’s a case of both,” said Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

Darling said there needs to be a discussion about whether UW System President Kevin Reilly should resign.

“He definitely should look himself in the mirror and say, ‘Have I done the responsible thing?’ And if he hasn’t, he should resign,” Darling said of Reilly.

The dispute could come to a head publicly on Tuesday, when the Legislature’s Joint Employment Relations Committee is to hold a hearing on proposed pay plans for UW schools. Reilly is scheduled to appear before the committee, which consists of eight legislative leaders.

“We did not draw attention” to the reserves in the past, acknowledged David Giroux, UW System spokesman. He said there would be discussions “about how we can be more transparent in representing these numbers and explaining them better.”