By DONOVAN HARRELL
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher told Senate Council that Pitt’s administrators prepared for the worst when it came to the University's budget — but the worst didn't happen.
At the end of the spring semester, there was much uncertainty about the future of Pitt’s budget, Gallagher said at the Sept. 17 meeting. As the pandemic began to cause major economic disruptions around the world, it wasn’t clear how the pandemic would affect enrollment, research and state government.
But Pennsylvania state legislators passed a full-year appropriations bill for Pitt with the same amount of funding as last year — $151.5 million plus $3.3 million for rural education outreach.
Gallagher pointed out that Pitt’s enrollment numbers are still similar to last year and research funding has increased, especially for COVID-related research. But even with the funding from the Commonwealth, Gallagher said the future of the state’s economy is still unpredictable.
“What I can say is that the situation is still very volatile,” Gallagher said. “Things can still change.”
He later said Pennsylvania is still dealing with financial struggles related to the pandemic’s effects on tax revenue and the uncertainty of how and if the federal government will provide adequate help.
However, the pandemic has still put the University in a position where it would lose money.
“I just want to emphasize we've always had a cost problem,” Gallagher said. “COVID costs money to shift the University to operate this way. And so our best-case scenario is still a money loser for the University.
“This wasn't a difference between being in the black or in the red. We were going to be in the red no matter what. The question was, how deep.”
Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, said the University has asked for an extension for the submission of the annual appropriation request, which is normal.
Gallagher said the University is trying to offset “most of our one-time costs with one-time savings.” This means that since fewer people at the University are traveling, buying supplies and using campus facilities, the money saved will help offset new costs related to the pandemic. These include testing programs and housing adjustments, he said.
Even though Pitt is doing relatively well at the moment, the economic effects of the pandemic will reverberate for years, Gallagher said.
“And the disruption happening across higher ed is, in fact, happening,” Gallagher said. “We just were very fortunate. I think the real budgetary situation that we need to watch is not so much the current year we're in, but the next few years ... as the aftershocks of all of this continue to happen.”
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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