Another Senate-House showdown possible on USM

March 23, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • In this recent photo, University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Britt" Kirwan speaks before the House Appropriations' Education and Economic Development Subcommittee in Annapolis.
Herald-Mail file photo

ANNAPOLIS — A University System of Maryland funding showdown that could affect Hagerstown is developing in the General Assembly.

The House of Delegates has agreed to cut $8.1 million from the USM central office's proposed $19.3 million budget for fiscal 2012.

The cut — strongly opposed by USM Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan — was recommended by the state Department of Legislative Services.

A Senate budget subcommittee decided Monday on a lesser cut — $2.1 million. The full committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal today.

If the House and Senate disagree, representatives from each chamber will work on a compromise.

The issue is noteworthy for Hagerstown, which has a University System of Maryland campus downtown.

USM's Hagerstown center is funded as part of the USM central office budget. So, if the central office budget is cut, USM could take money from its Hagerstown and Shady Grove centers to help make up the loss.

The House Appropriations' education subcommittee suggested that a cut to the Hagerstown campus could result, although the decision is USM's.

In backing the $8.1 million cut, the subcommittee attached a series of choices for USM, including: replace some or all of the money from its fund balance, cut from the Hagerstown and Shady Grove center budgets, or charge USM member schools for the work of the central office.

But the Senate Budget and Taxation subcommittee amended those choices in a way that might help Hagerstown. It kept the fund balance or fee-for-service options to recoup money, but eliminated the choice of cutting from Hagerstown or Shady Grove.

If the proposed $2.1 million cut is approved by the full Budget and Taxation Committee, then the full Senate, it would be the fourth straight year in which the two chambers have squared off on a USM cut related to Hagerstown.

The first three years, USMH's budget was directly targeted, threatening the center's operations. Each time, however, the final compromise was mostly or entirely what the Senate wanted, keeping USMH intact.

The House gave preliminary approval to its version of the fiscal 2012 state budget on Wednesday.

USMH's proposed funding is about $1.9 million.

The Hagerstown and Shady Grove center budgets together total about $9.2 million.

If the $8.1 million cut on the House side goes through, the USM central office would be left with about $1.7 million for its operations.

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