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June 27, 2013

Pitt appropriation on hold ’til state has FY14 budget

As the state budget process continues in Harrisburg, appropriation bills that would hold Pitt’s funding steady in the upcoming fiscal year are being positioned for action in the House and Senate.

Paul Supowitz, Pitt’s vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, said, “There aren’t a lot of controversies about the budget” as the June 30 fiscal year-end deadline for an on-time budget approaches, but progress is slow as legislators wrestle with other issues — including transportation funding and liquor sales.

Supowitz said little change is expected in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed appropriation to Pitt for fiscal year 2014, which includes nearly $134 million for general support and almost $2.1 million for rural education outreach.

In advance of his FY14 budget proposal last February, Corbett announced his intention to hold flat state funding for higher education in exchange for state-related and state-system university leaders’ pledges to keep tuition increases “as low as possible” in the coming academic year. (See Feb. 7 University Times.)

While university leaders are pleased to be avoiding potential funding cuts at the state level, Pitt administrators have pointed out that the proposed $136.076 million FY14 appropriation for Pitt, in unadjusted dollars, is the equivalent of 1995 funding levels.

In addition to nearly $134 million for general support and more than $2.08 million for rural education outreach, Pitt’s current appropriation includes $4.05 million in academic medical center funding, bringing the total to $144.34 million.

The governor’s proposal last February included a 1.7 percent increase in academic medical center funding, but Supowitz said the figure reflects slight variations in the federal matching funding that contributes to the medical school funding. Although the University has been advocating for additional dollars, Supowitz said the proposed medical school funding, like Pitt’s general appropriation, is “essentially flat.”

In its annual state funding request for the upcoming fiscal year, the University last fall asked for a 5 percent increase in support: $142.88 million in general support and $8.68 million in academic medical center funding for a total of $151.56 million. (See Sept. 27, 2012, University Times.)

Because Pitt and its fellow state-related schools are not under complete state control, their support from the state is provided through non-preferred appropriations.

Funding decisions for non-preferred appropriations are made individually (HB1469 and SB 726) after the state general fund budget is passed.

Medical school funding, however, comes through the Department of Public Welfare as part of the general fund budget.

Unlike that budget, which requires a simple majority, non-preferred appropriations need a two-thirds majority to pass.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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