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Panel approves USM-H funding

April 10, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Part of the compromise in securing full funding for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown was to spread $900,000 among six other higher education centers in the state.

One of the centers that will benefit from its share of the money is in the district represented by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, who targeted USM-H for budget cuts last year with the intent of giving USM-H's money to other centers.

A conference committee has been working for days to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate in the state's $13.8 billion operating budget, including the budget for USM-H.

The House recommended a $500,000 cut for the downtown Hagerstown campus, while the Senate voted to increase its funding by 1 percent in fiscal year 2010.

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The center operates on a $2 million budget. The compromise reached by the panel Friday secures full funding for USM-H, and establishes a task force to study its operations, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

He said the $900,000 lawmakers agreed to spread among other centers hopefully will prevent future attempts to cut the budget for the Hagerstown campus. That money -- $150,000 per center --  would be included in the centers' base budgets during discussions of the fiscal year 2011 budget, Munson said.

Bohanan has mentioned equity as one of his primary concerns regarding USM-H's budget.

The six non-USM regional higher education centers in the state operate on less state money than USM-H.

"I'm happy that he was successful at getting money for the other centers," said C. David Warner III, executive director of USM-H. "I want all of the centers to be funded adequately. And I hope (Del. Bohanan) leaves us alone next year."

Munson, who serves on the conference committee that reached a decision Friday, said he was pleased by the vote and the strong support for higher education centers, including USM-H.

"Hopefully this decision will take the pressure off of Bohanan to seek money from Hagerstown in the future," Munson said.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the state operating budget amended in conference Saturday.

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