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HCC could lose $1 million in funding this year

November 13, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- State budget cuts could cost Hagerstown Community College between $500,000 and $1 million in funding this year, according to Guy Altieri, the college's president.

HCC and other local institutions and government bodies are facing new cuts aimed at plugging next year's projected $1 billion state budget shortfall.

When the state Board of Public Works agreed Oct. 15 to trim around $300 million from the current state budget, the cuts included a $340,000 hit to HCC's funding, Altieri said.

The college is expecting another round of state cuts in December that could push the total funding loss to as much as $1 million, or about 4 percent of the total operating budget.

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"That's our best estimate at this point," Altieri said last month.

C. David Warner III, executive director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, said he was asked about a month ago to cut $16,534 from this year's USM-H budget.

He was bracing for another cut of up to $100,000 this year -- until a week ago, when he got a letter saying it would be $9,827.

Warner said USM-H will be able to make up the $16,534 through an account for fuel expenses, which have been decreasing, and the $9,827 from a contingency fund.

The effect of recent state cuts on Washington County Public Schools isn't clear yet, district spokesman Richard Wright wrote in an Oct. 31 e-mail.

"Washington County Public Schools has not received revenue forecasts from the state, so at this time we are still waiting to learn when the state is cutting from the budget," he wrote. "It's likely that we won't know for sure until mid-December."

The city of Hagerstown is losing about $110,000 out of about $2 million in state highway user revenue this year, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

The city is watching other state funding sources, such as Program Open Space for parks and Community Legacy for local projects, to see if they will be cut, he said.

Money for other projects, such as the improvement of Dual Highway and Edgewood Drive and upgrades to city utilities, still is available, Zimmerman said.

Washington County has positioned itself well financially the last few years through conservative budgeting and borrowing and even has seen its bond rating improve, County Administrator Gregory Murray said.

That helps offset the $400,000 it will lose in highway user revenue this year, he said.

Murray said the recent Board of Public Works cuts included $300,000 -- 25 percent -- of the county's reimbursement for housing state inmates at its detention center.

The county was prepared, though, and only will have to make up about $13,000, Murray said.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, who is on the House Appropriations Committee, said recent cuts have been to state agencies and will have a modest trickle-down effect, rather than a direct effect, in Washington County.

But after the Maryland General Assembly's coming session, the pain of budget cuts probably will be more pronounced in Washington County, he said.

Myers said it's encouraging that the governor and Board of Public Works is looking at vacant state jobs as a place for savings, something he has advocated previously.

More than 1,500 state jobs have been cut since Gov. Martin O'Malley took office in January 2007, according to the governor's office.

To cope with its expected loss of funding, HCC will delay filling 10 to 15 vacant positions, Altieri said.

The college also will decrease professional development and travel spending and will put off some technology upgrades. For example, office computers that are replaced every three years will have to last a little longer.

The college doesn't plan to eliminate classes, cut or furlough employees, or raise tuition in the middle of the year, Altieri said.

HCC also expects fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to be "lean," he said.

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