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$500,000 funding cut proposed for USM-H

March 18, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- State lawmakers are considering a recommendation by a state budget analyst to cut the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown's $2 million budget by $500,000.

The recommendation made Wednesday calls for funding of the downtown Hagerstown center to be reduced over four years to an amount comparable to that received by non-USM regional higher education centers throughout the state.

The recommendation made Wednesday was a change from an earlier proposal that would have reduced campus funding from $2 million to $172,000. At that time, officials said the USM-H campus would receive $172,000 if it was a non-USM center, based on a funding formula.

A discussion of the budget analyst's recommendation was postponed Wednesday, and it likely will be voted on Thursday by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The subcommittee will offer its recommendation to the full committee Friday, and USM-H funding will be discussed by the full House of Delegates next week.

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Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said the House subcommittee might have decided to delay a decision because there was disagreement about the recommendation to cut USM-H's budget by 25 percent.

"I think people are getting scared over nothing right now," he said. "It's all very fluid."

Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, last year 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 heads the subcommittee expected to vote today on USM-H funding.

C. David Warner III, executive director of USM-H, attended Wednesday's hearing. He said it would be "premature for me to comment on anything at this point" because no action was taken.

He said he was pleased with the support the Hagerstown campus has received from University System officials and lawmakers representing Washington County in Annapolis.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said Wednesday's recommendation to cut the center's funding by $500,000 was disappointing, and that he would work to make sure the Senate committee also considering USM-H funding does not come back with a similar recommendation.

"(The cuts) may not close the doors in the next academic year, but it's going to close the doors in the future," Munson said.

Officials have said reducing the center's funding to $172,000 would effectively shut it down.

Donoghue said Wednesday that a $500,000 cut also was "unacceptable," and said he and Munson would be working together to restore as much funding as possible to the center.

"We were expecting a cut, but not 25 percent," Donoghue said. "Why take it out on Hagerstown? If there is a need to reduce the budget by $500,000, why not take it from everyone?"

The budget analyst's recommendation also calls on USM-H to find "other sources of funding," rather than relying solely on state money.

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