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February 5, 1998

Ridge proposes 3.25% hike for Pitt in FY99

Pitt would receive a 3.25 percent increase in its state appropriation next year under Gov. Tom Ridge's proposed budget.

This week, Ridge recommended increasing Pitt's funding by nearly $5 million to $158.2 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The University had sought a 3.5 percent hike in its current $153.2 million base budget plus another 5 percent, or $7.7 million, for four initiatives aimed at making Pennsylvania more competitive economically: instructional technology improvements, laboratory modernization, infrastructure modernization, and programs to ensure that Pitt graduates can compete for jobs.

Ridge did not recommend funding those specific initiatives. But there may be money elsewhere in Ridge's budget for such projects, said Dennis P. McManus, Pitt assistant vice chancellor for Governmental Relations.

"The governor has recommended that money be made available for certain items related to those kinds of initiatives — equipment grants and technology-related programs — but at this stage of the game it's too early to tell" how much of that funding might go to Pitt and other universities, McManus said. "We need to take a closer look at the budget proposal." Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, in a written statement, praised Ridge's proposed 3.5 percent hike in Pitt's base appropriation as "the largest proposed increase in recent years. It is a tangible sign of the governor's commitment to higher education, and I want to thank him for it.

"The budget proposal also contains support for a number of more focused initiatives designed to enhance the work of Pennsylvania's colleges and universities in a more rapidly changing world," Nordenberg continued. "I look forward to further examining those initiatives and to working constructively with members of the administration and the legislature as the appropriations process moves forward." University administrators, lobbyists and others will continue to plead Pitt's case in Harrisburg as Pennsylvania legislators and governor's office staff try to agree on a new state budget by the end of June.

Chancellor Nordenberg and other Pitt officials are scheduled to testify before the state Senate appropriations committee Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. and the House of Representatives appropriations committee March 4 at 10 a.m. Both hearings will be at the State Capitol Building.

In the funding request that Pitt submitted to the state Department of Education in September, the University proposed hiking tuition by 3.5 percent next fall and increasing the budget for faculty and staff compensation (salary plus benefits) likewise by 3.5 percent. The latter would be achieved through a 1 percent cut in the base compensation budget followed by a 4.5 percent increase in the compensation budget for remaining faculty and staff positions.

But those 3.5 percent increases for tuition and compensation were based on an 8.5 percent hike in Pitt's total appropriation (including 3.5 for the base appropriation and 5 percent for the competitiveness initiatives).

Pitt spokesperson Ken Service said it's too soon to tell whether the University could meet those goals under Ridge's proposed budget.

"Those remain our goals, but it's too early in the process to say anything definitive," Service said. "There's a lot that still has to be done in terms of a careful analysis of the governor's proposal as well as our own internal budgeting and the legislative process in Harrisburg." The following is a line item breakdown of Ridge's recommendation for Pitt, along with amounts the University requested: * $140.79 million in educational and general funds, a 3.25 percent increase. Pitt asked for $141.14 million.

* $338,000 for services to disadvantaged students (3.36 percent), the same amount that Pitt requested.

* $6.57 million for the School of Medicine (3.25 percent). Pitt's request: $6.59 million.

* $1.08 million for the Dental Clinic (3.24 percent), $3,000 less than Pitt asked for.

* $8.1 million for the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (3.25 percent), $20,000 less than Pitt's request.

* $523,000 for the Services for Teens at Risk program (3.2 percent), $2,000 less than Pitt requested.

* $263,000 for the Center for Public Health Practice (3.14 percent), $1,000 less than the University's request.

* $480,000 for rural education outreach (3.23 percent), $1,000 less than Pitt's request.

Ridge's budget also recommends $1 million for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University and Westing-house Corp. That would be half of the current state appropriation to the center.

The governor proposes $550,000 for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, $56,000 for the University's Cleft Palate Center and $50,000 for the Pitt Ethnic Heritage Studies Center. All three of those recommendations are the same as the current funding for those centers.

The only time Gov. Ridge referred directly to higher education in his Feb. 3 budget address came when he proposed a 7 percent, or $17.5 million, increase in student financial aid available through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Ridge said the increase will make college more affordable for an additional 1,700 needy students.

— Bruce Steele

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