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September 29, 2005

Pitt asks for 10 percent hike in appropriation

Pitt is requesting a 10 percent increase in its commonwealth appropriations for fiscal year 2007, which begins next July 1. If approved, the $192.8 million request, which was filed with the state government last week, would surpass Pitt’s high-water mark of $178.5 million that was allocated in fiscal year 2002.

“We know an overall 10 percent increase is typically a larger increase than we see, but this request is in line with the University’s needs,” Paul Supowitz, a community and governmental relations lobbyist for Pitt, told the University Times this week. “We also feel that we need that bump to help make up for the budget cuts we suffered in recent years.”

Supowitz added that, in the first year of the Rendell administration, there was an emphasis on supporting basic education. “Last year the community colleges were the focus. We’re hopeful that maybe higher education will be in line for more support this year,” he said.

Included in Pitt’s request is a 10 percent hike to $170 million in education and general (E&G) funding, which, along with tuition, are the two revenue streams that provide the major source of discretionary spending.

In making its case to the commonwealth, Pitt stated, “Although the University receives significant levels of funding in sponsored research and private gifts, the vast majority of these dollars are earmarked for very specific purposes … [and] cannot be reallocated to cover general operating expenses.

“The educational and general funds are the dollars that must be stretched to keep our faculty and staff salaries competitive, to maintain our facilities, to invest in our library collection, to improve student access to technology, to provide a safe environment for all members of the University community, and to enhance extracurricular and recreational learning opportunities for our students.”

If Pitt’s request is granted in full, the University intends to hold tuition increases to 4 percent (not counting the $1,000 differential tuition rate surcharge for undergrads beginning their studies here in fall 2003 or later), and would increase the employee compensation pool by at least 4 percent, Pitt’s request stated.

Other line item requests by Pitt, including for the School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, the Center for Public Health Practice, the Services for Teens at Risk program, the dental clinic, student life initiatives, and rural education outreach, also were for a 10 percent increase, while the request for funding for disadvantaged students is for a 9.9 percent increase.

This year, Pitt will receive $175 million in total state appropriations for FY06, which began July 1. (See July 21 University Times.) That is an increase of $6.3 million, or 3.74 percent, over fiscal year 2005’s total state appropriation. Pitt had requested a 12.9 percent overall increase last year.

In FY05, Pitt got a 3.29 percent increase to $168.8 million, ending a downward spiral from fiscal year 2002, Pitt officials stated.

“Even with these increases [in the past two years], the University’s FY06 appropriation is about $3.2 million below the FY02 amount,” according to Pitt’s request.

This year’s allocation also reflects a continuing decline in the percentage of the overall operating budget that state appropriations cover; this year’s percentage is less than 12 percent, compared to more than 19 percent 10 years ago, Pitt’s request said.


One component of the current Pitt operating budget is still unsettled, with respect to line item funding provided for the School of Medicine, according to Supowitz.

In a proposal dubbed “federalization,” the commonwealth is seeking funds from the federal Medicaid program to supply approximately half of the governmental funding for the medical school.

Last spring, the General Assembly approved moving that line item from the Department of Education budget to the Department of Public Welfare budget in an attempt to qualify for federal Medicaid funding.

If federal funds are not forthcoming, the medical school will receive state funds at least equal to last year, the state-approved budget stated.

If the proposal is approved at the federal level, Pitt’s School of Medicine would receive a $2.2 million boost in total funding to $8.8 million, combining state and federal dollars. The FY07 budget request is for a 10 percent increase on the $8.8 million.

Supowitz said, “We’re operating under the assumption that the $8.8 million funding will go through. If it doesn’t, it will mean less money will come down the pike later in the year.”

But the University would not alter its submitted budget request for $9.7 million if the federalization money is not approved, he said.

“It’s September, which is very early in the budget season. In February the governor makes his budget proposals and then [University officials] go before the legislature to discuss our proposals and then in April and May is when things really heat up. So there is much negotiation on our budget request still to come. The request is not overly formalistic in that sense,” Supowitz said.

He added there was no expected date yet for action by the federal government on the federalization proposal.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 38 Issue 3

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