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House subcommittee backs USM central office cut

March 16, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — A budget subcommittee agreed Wednesday to cut the University System of Maryland central office budget by about $8 million, a recommendation that, if it stands, could indirectly affect the Hagerstown campus.

The House Appropriations subcommittee's decision is an early step in the fiscal 2012 budget process. The proposal still has to go to the committee and the full House, plus the Senate.

After the subcommittee vote, Patrick J. "P.J." Hogan, USM's associate vice chancellor for government relations, said the $8 million cut would be significant — roughly equal to a 2 percent tuition increase.

The system already plans to increase tuition 3 percent in the coming year.

Aimed at the central office, the cut actually would be from the entire USM budget. Hogan said the board of regents would decide what specifically to cut.

After three straight years in which the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown was targeted, the center appeared to get through the House subcommittee unscathed two weeks ago, with proposed funding of about $1.9 million.

The USM central office budget debate, though, could hurt Hagerstown.

Currently, $9.2 million for the Hagerstown and Shady Grove centers is wrapped into the $19.3 million USM central office budget.

Several weeks ago, the state Department of Legislative Services recommended cutting $8.1 million, leaving around $1.7 million for central office operations.

Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan has objected, arguing that the proposed cuts would be severe.

Legislative services has suggested that the central office bill USM schools for its work, but Kirwan countered that the office directs the entire system and isn't a "service."

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, who chairs the Senate budget subcommittee on education, said Wednesday he's unsure what his subcommittee will decide on the recommended central office cut.

He said he sees the point about sharing the cost of the USM office's work, but that could create a "shell game" as money is added to individual schools' budgets to compensate.

"It could be a one-year maneuver," he said.

The Senate subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the same proposal on Monday. Madaleno wondered if Gov. Martin O'Malley might have a counterproposal first.

"There isn't a planned counter at this point," O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec wrote in an e-mail. "Our budget folks are working closely with the committee."

The House subcommittee also agreed that USMH and Shady Grove budgets should be detailed and separate from the central office budget in the future.

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