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USM-H chief expects some degree of funding cut

March 13, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- The executive director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown said Friday he is confident the downtown campus will be spared a suggested 90 percent funding cut being considered by state lawmakers.

However, USM-H Executive Director C. David Warner said it would be unrealistic, in the current economic environment, not to expect some reduction in funding.

"Most state entities I know are taking a cut of some kind," Warner said.

A state budget analyst on Friday recommended to a Senate subcommittee that funding for USM-H be cut from $2 million to $172,000 in the coming budget year and that USM-H be turned into a non-USM center. The same recommendation was heard last week before a subcommittee in the House.

Officials have said the proposed cuts would force the closure of the campus, which offers 21 programs from six universities and enrolled 455 students as of the fall of 2008.

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William E. "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said during testimony Friday, "We want to take very strong objection to the recommendation to essentially eliminate the center at Hagerstown."

A recommendation by the House subcommittee on USM-H funding was expected to be made Friday but was not. A recommendation by the Senate subcommittee on USM-H funding is expected to be made before March 20.

Last year, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, who heads the House subcommittee considering USM-H funding, pushed to eliminate all $2.1 million for USM-H in fiscal year 2009 and spread it among several non-USM higher-education centers, including one in his district. Under the proposal, USM-H might have received $700,000. The House and Senate negotiated a compromise that restored $2 million to USM-H.

Bohanan suggested last week that USM-H could be moved from its downtown Hagerstown location, but said he would not make any funding recommendations that would cease its operations.

Lawmakers in the Senate on Friday did not discuss any closure or move for USM-H, and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, described it as a positive hearing. He said he was confident that the Senate would not seek drastic cuts in funding for USM-H.

Munson said that budget analyst Sara Jean Baker's recommendation and report on USM-H were flawed.

"...The budget analysis created by the Department of Legislative Services regarding the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown is littered with unsubstantiated statements," Munson said in written testimony. "The analysis is extremely misleading. The analysis creates a one-sided, inaccurate and negative perception of USM-H at a time when the center should be recognized for its achievement and success."

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