By SUSAN JONES
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has once again proposed flat funding for Pitt and the three other state-related universities.
Wolf gave his annual budget address on Feb. 2 and released his budget proposal. This is the third year that Wolf has proposed no increase for the universities, which include Penn State, Temple and Lincoln. In a switch from last year, Wolf also proposed flat funding for the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools.
The budget will now make its way through the legislative process, which typically culminates in June. The funding proposed for Pitt is $151.5 million in general funds plus $3.3 million for rural education outreach.
The governor’s budget also provides capital funds for three projects at Pitt:
Hillman Library renovations, Phase 3: $16.5 million
Chevron Science Center renovations, project close-out funding for Phase 2: $50,000
Crawford Complex renovations, Phase 2: $3.4 million
In October, Pitt submitted its budget proposal for 2021-22 to the state and requested a 5 percent increase in funding.
In 2019, Pitt ended up with a 2.2 percent increase from the state, which was the sixth year in a row that the appropriation increased. But at the time, Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, said that the University was still not up to the funding levels it received before the 2008 recession and the drastic cuts during the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett from 2011-15.
For the 2020-21 fiscal year, funding from the state stayed flat, which was probably the best that could be expected because of the losses the state has sustained from the pandemic. The state has projected revenue losses of $4 billion.
While many items in this year’s state budget were only funded through Nov. 30, 2020, the supplemental appropriation for Pitt, which comes through the Department of Education, was for the full 12 months starting July 1, 2020.
Pitt’s budget for this fiscal year, which was passed by the Board of Trustees in July 2020, included a salary freeze, no tuition hikes, a 78 percent reduction in capital spending and a permanent budget cut of 3.7 percent across the board on average, along with a one-time cut of 5 percent.
While there are still uncertainties in the current fiscal year, the University has budgeted between $90 million and $130 million as a result of COVID-related costs and lost revenues in the 2020-21 budget, in addition to the approximately $50 million impact experienced in fiscal year 2020, according to a Pitt spokesman.
Pitt also received money from the two stimulus packages passed by Congress in 2020. The University was alloted $21.3 million from the CARES Act passed in April 2020, and about half of that was used for emergency financial-aid grants to students. The rest covered losses and the costs of restarting the University.
In December, a second federal stimulus was approved, which included $21.2 billion in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II. Pitt is set to receive $30.6 million. How that money will be used is still being determined.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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