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USM-H agreement reached

Munson: 'We won'

Munson: 'We won'

April 04, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- After weeks of haggling, state lawmakers chiseled out an agreement Friday that leaves Hagerstown's university campus with nearly full funding next year.

The compromise between the House and Senate guarantees the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown $2 million for fiscal year 2009.

"We won," Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said after Friday's session, which capped more than a week of public and private talks. "It was a tough battle. I'm not kidding. It was as tough as cold war."

The Hagerstown center originally was budgeted for about $2.1 million, but last month, a House subcommittee redirected the money so it would be spread among several higher-education centers.

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That left USM-H's funding uncertain, even with $1 million that Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, later secured to help compensate for the House subcommittee's action.

For weeks, the subcommittee chairman, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, held firm that six higher-education centers outside the university system, including one in his district, were sharply underfunded compared to two USM centers, including Hagerstown's.

Friday's agreement between the House and Senate gives those six centers an additional $800,000, roughly doubling their fiscal year 2009 funding.

Under the agreement, $400,000 will be cut from USM-H's $2.1 million budget and moved to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, to be distributed to the six non-USM centers.

Another $400,000 for those six centers will come from a state work-force development fund connected to the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

That leaves USM-H $400,000 short in its budget - but $300,000 will be replenished from within the university system.

Munson said he thinks USM-H can make up about $40,000 of the final $100,000 gap through rental agreements and fundraising efforts.

He said the compromise showed that the Senate stayed true to its original philosophy of full funding for USM-H.

Bohanan also was pleased with the settlement because it provided funding help for which he has been fighting.

"I think this is a very fair outcome," he said.

He said new money for the non-USM centers boosts their funding from about 25 percent of what has been recommended to nearly 50 percent of what has been recommended.

An additional piece of the compromise requires closer monitoring of USM-H's operations. The center must prepare a five-year business plan that includes ideas for generating outside revenue, with the aim of reducing its reliance on state funding.

The report is due Oct. 15.

Also, a state commission on higher education funding will be expected to make recommendations to the governor and Maryland General Assembly by Dec. 1.

Word spread early in the day that an agreement was ready.

So, when Bohanan sat down for the afternoon budget negotiating session, a wood cutout of the USM-H building was waiting at his place, which made him smile.

After the agreement was finalized, Munson signed the back of the cutout and gave it back to Bohanan.

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