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April 30, 2009

Pitt FY10 budget process continues

The University’s fiscal year 2010 budget continues to take shape even as legislators in Harrisburg deal with their own budget woes.

University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) chair Richard Pratt at an April 17 BPC meeting said the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC) could recommend a budget at its next meeting. UPBC is scheduled to meet today, April 30.

Pratt said BPC could then review the recommendation in a closed session at its May 8 meeting.

Given the Chancellor’s March 2 announcement that there will be no salary pool increase in this year’s budget, Pratt said, “There may not be as much to say this time,” although he noted the issue of benefits could be a topic for BPC to review and discuss.

Pratt elaborated on BPC’s role as an adviser and watchdog over Pitt’s budget process and issues related to the University’s fiscal health.

Citing the University’s planning and budgeting system (PBS) document ( and Senate bylaws (, Pratt said, “The general PBS procedure does state that the University Senate, through its committees, provides advice to the chancellor and administrative officers on all aspects of University planning and budget including long-range planning, budgeting, program plans, operation plans and budget and so forth.” He added, “The bylaws of the Senate say that the Senate considers and makes recommendations on matters of University-wide concern and that University administrative officers and committees consult the Senate on matters of University concern.

Referring to BPC’s mission statement (, Pratt reiterated that the fiscal health of the University is among the committee’s primary concerns. “It’s clear that the budget policies committee has very wide-ranging jurisdiction and responsibilities albeit very limited authority as an advisory body,” he said.

Vice Chancellor for Budget and Controller Arthur Ramicone told BPC he plans to make a report at the May 20 meeting of the trustees’ budget committee. “Then we wait and see what happens with the commonwealth appropriation,” he said.

The full board of trustees has scheduled a June 26 meeting at which the new annual budget could be approved.

However, a University budget typically is not approved until after Pitt’s state appropriation is finalized. Ramicone said trustees have set a contingency meeting in July in case the legislature fails to pass a budget before the June 30 end of the current fiscal year.

Harrisburg is continuing to watch revenue figures, House appropriations spokesperson Johnna Pro told the University Times, adding that tax receipts make April and May big months for revenue.

Regardless, Pennsylvania faces a $2.3 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year’s budget with similar numbers expected for next year, leaving a gap of more than $6 billion that must be closed as legislators debate next year’s budget.

“We cannot cut our way out of this budget process,” Pro said, adding that the state will need to tap into its rainy day fund, increase revenues and streamline its budget. While federal economic stimulus money is helpful, Pro said, “It doesn’t solve our budget problem.”

House and Senate appropriations committee hearings — part of the annual budget process — have been completed. As budget discussions continue in the coming weeks, Pro said, “I think you will have a lot of discussion about funding of non-preferreds” — charitable or educational institutions (including Pitt and its fellow state-related schools) that are not under the state’s control and that the legislature is not under obligation to fund.

The governor’s proposed budget would hold funding for the state-related universities at current levels, which already have been cut 6 percent from the amounts authorized last July by the legislature. (See Sept. 25, 2008, and Jan. 8 University Times.) Some funding for non-preferred arts, cultural and historical organizations already has been eliminated from the governor’s proposed $26.6 billion FY10 budget.

Pro noted that some legislators favor eliminating all funding for non-preferred entities. “I think right now everything is on the table,” she said.

“We’re going to have a lot of discussion.”

The legislature’s goal is to complete a budget by the June 30 fiscal year end. “Realistically, do we think that’s going to happen? It’s hard to say. People have to be willing to negotiate,” Pro said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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