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February 8, 2007

1.96% hike proposed by governor

In his annual budget proposal, Gov. Ed Rendell is seeking to increase state appropriations for Pitt to $167.86 million, an increase of 1.96 percent over the current appropriation.

Under Rendell’s plan, Pitt would receive $164.3 million in education and general (E&G) funding, $435,000 for student life initiatives, $442,000 for recruitment of the disadvantaged, $523,000 for the WPIC teen suicide center and $2.16 million for rural education outreach.

In Pitt’s annual operating budget request, delivered to the state last September, the University asked for an 8.5 percent increase in state support, seeking $198.54 million for fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1, 2007. The bulk of the request was for E&G funding of nearly $174.8 million.

Rendell, in a Feb. 6 presentation to the state legislature, proposed a general fund budget totaling $27.3 billion, a 3.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year budget.

Pitt’s fellow state-related schools would receive percentage increases similar to Pitt’s. Overall, Rendell’s proposal increased funding to the four state-related universities by a total of 1.78 percent.

Under Rendell’s proposal, Penn State would receive $332.9 million, a 1.58 percent increase over current funding; Temple would get $172.9 million, a 1.99 percent increase, and Lincoln University would receive $13.8 million, a 2 percent increase.

Rendell was a bit more generous in other areas of higher education funding, proposing 3.5 percent increases in state funding for community colleges and the State System of Higher Education.

Last year, Rendell proposed a 4 percent increase for Pitt and its fellow state-related schools. Pitt had asked for a 10 percent increase totaling $192.8 million, including $170 million in E&G funding. The legislature ultimately granted a 4.7 percent increase for Pitt when it passed its budget in July. Pitt’s state appropriation for fiscal year 2007 was just over $164.6 million, part of a fiscal year 2007 operating budget of $1.55 billion.

While the proposed budget’s percentage increase for Pitt is less than half of what Rendell requested a year ago, Paul Supowitz, Pitt’s vice chancellor for governmental relations, said the smaller increase was not a big surprise.

“Last year the state had a significant surplus, plus it didn’t have the immediacy of the mass transit issue,” he said. “It’s a very challenging and difficult budget year.”

Not included in the education budget are line items that have been moved to the Department of Public Welfare budget in order to qualify for federal funding.

Those are approximately $9.2 million for the School of Medicine, $1.08 million for Pitt’s dental school, $8.07 million for Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and $423,000 for the Center for Public Health Practice, Supowitz estimated.

The governor’s budget proposal, made on the first Tuesday in February each year, is just one step in the budget process. The House and Senate appropriations committees hold hearings to review requests for funds before a general appropriations bill is presented to the legislature for approval. (Pitt administrators are scheduled to make their presentation to the committees on Feb. 27.) Ideally, a new budget is passed prior to the June 30 end of the state’s fiscal year.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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