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Smooth sailing for Hagerstown campus funding

March 02, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan in Annapolis Wednesday.
By Andrew Schotz, Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — A state subcommittee Wednesday didn't alter next year's proposed $1.96 million budget for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown — a sign that another campus funding battle seems unlikely this year.

During the last three years, attempts in Annapolis to pull money from the center's budget have sent a scare into campus supporters. Each time, however, all or nearly all of the funding was restored.

The battle has played out each year in the House Appropriations' Education and Economic Development Subcommittee, which reviews higher education budgets.

About three weeks ago, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, told The Herald-Mail that he still is concerned about what he sees as a funding inequity that hurts higher education centers outside the university system, including one in his district.

But Bohanan, the subcommittee chairman, didn't raise the issue Wednesday when the University System of Maryland's central office budget, which includes USM-H, was reviewed.

USM-H's expected budget for the coming fiscal year is $1.96 million, up $15,234, or 0.8 percent, from the current fiscal year.

A Senate education budget subcommittee reviewed the USM budget Monday, but also had no questions or comments about USM-H, according to C. David Warner III, the Hagerstown center's executive director.

There was only one main point of contention this year between the state Department of Legislative Services, which analyzes budget requests and makes recommendations, and University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan.

A legislative services analyst has recommended cutting the USM central office's $19.3 million budget by $8.1 million. Individual institutions within the system would make up the $8.1 million, since the central office "operates on behalf of and for the benefit of all the institutions," a DLS report said.

Kirwan has protested that idea, arguing that the USM central office guides the system and shouldn't be treated as a "service" for which member institutions would pay.

The USM budget proposal will go to the full Appropriations Committee for its approval before moving to the full House in the coming weeks.

After Wednesday's subcommittee hearing, Warner said he was satisfied with how it went.

"We'll keep doing what we do," he said.

Warner said he agreed with Kirwan's argument about funding for the central office.

The debate is noteworthy for Hagerstown because the USM central office's $19.3 million budget includes $9.2 million for USM-H and the Universities at Shady Grove.

But there is no indication that the proposed cut to the USM central office budget would be passed along to Hagerstown and Shady Grove.

The state-revenue portion of the USM-H budget in the fiscal 2012 budget would not change from $1.89 million this year.

The budget projects another $65,000 in revenue from rental and testing services, up from $50,000 in the current year.

In 2008, when almost all of the USM-H budget was cut, then restored, the center was left with a $100,000 gap to fill, partly through rental agreements and fundraising.

Warner said Wednesday that the center generally takes in about $50,000 to $70,000 on its own.

One tenant is U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., who rents space there for a Hagerstown office.

"We're making the maximum amount of revenue we're going to make," Warner said.

Recently, the city of Hagerstown decided to stop renting a classroom and an office for its police academy, a revenue loss of about $15,000 for the center, Warner said.

But the center has found increasing public interest in the rental of its interactive video rooms, where people in separate locations can connect.

Warner said lawyers have used the rooms to depose people remotely, and businesses have used them to interview prospective employees instead of flying them in.

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