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July 21, 2016

PA appropriation up 2.5%

State legislators increased Pitt’s appropriation to $146.77 million for the fiscal year that began July 1. The funding includes $144.21 million for general support and $2.56 million for rural education outreach.

The larger appropriation, approved by the governor July 13, reflects a 2.5 percent increase in support for higher education in fiscal year 2017, including Pitt and its state-related counterparts, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities.

Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, said: “We’re very pleased, despite a tight budget year, that there was a commitment to try to address public higher education funding in Pennsylvania.”

In addition to the University’s appropriation, Supowitz noted an increase in academic medical center funding in the state general fund budget. With its federal match, an additional $500 million in academic medical center funding for Pitt in the state general fund budget will mean an increase of $1 million for Pitt’s medical school, bringing state support to approximately $12.14 million, he said.

When Pitt made its annual appropriation request last fall, it sought an increase of nearly 10 percent, including $168 million for general support and rural education outreach. (See Oct. 15, 2015, University Times.)

University Senate President Frank Wilson told the University Times he is glad legislators finished Pennsylvania’s FY17 budget in a relatively timely way.

Last year’s lengthy state budget impasse kept Pitt’s from setting its own budget until December, and held up FY16 appropriation dollars until April. (See April 28 University Times.)

“I will say that I have serious concerns about the way they decided to fund it,” Wilson said. “I think there’s smoke and mirrors involved in this; there’s some overestimation of the revenues from sin taxes and I think that we still have a long-term struggle. This is going to repeat itself over and over, year after year, especially if these kinds of approaches don’t work out. And they can’t go on forever,” he said, expressing concern in the long term for the effects on Pitt’s state funding.

“The legislature needs to be honest about how they feel about the role of higher education in Pennsylvania,” he said.

“I think they avoid that discussion year after year. It’s been playing out in a particularly ugly way over these last few budgets and I don’t see that changing,” he said, adding that ongoing uncertainty over state support affects Pitt’s ability to set its own budget plans. “It’s difficult to do when you have no idea what they’re going to come up with.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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