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Proposed W.Va. budget cuts don’t spare higher ed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Higher education in West Virginia will see a nearly $12 million budget drop in 2016 with West Virginia University and the School of Medicine accounting for more than 60 percent of the cuts.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday announced his proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, which included $72 million in “targeted cuts” and an infusion of nearly $69 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund to fill an estimated $195 million funding shortfall.

According to financial documents released Thursday, higher education’s total budget dropped $11,882,059 from FY 2015 to FY 2016.

The largest amounts came from West Virginia University, which saw a budget reduction of $4,579,357 and the WVU School of Medicine which saw a reduction of $2,659,091. The combined cuts drop the university’s budget by $7,238,448, and account for just under 61 percent of the total cuts to higher education.

Chris Stadelman, spokesman for the governor’s office, said no single agency bore the brunt of the reductions.

“All higher education institutions across the state were treated equally in terms of the proposed budget reductions for higher education,” he said. “Each school was cut 1.4 percent, and all mandated legislative appropriations over the years were reduced by 80 percent of the total, leaving 20 percent for discretionary spending. The schools that historically received larger amounts from those mandated appropriations see larger reductions than other institutions since they are allocated proportionally.”

John Bolt, a spokesman for WVU, said officials are reviewing the numbers.

“We will be taking a look to determine it’s impact on the university,” he said. “And we’ll continue to do what we have done for the past several years as budget cuts have come down: look for areas of savings, look for efficiencies and identify other sources of income.”

Other cuts in the proposed 2016 budget include a nearly $2 million reduction for Marshall University and its School of Medicine, nearly $484,000 from Glenville State College, $224,000 from Fairmont State University, nearly $171,000 from West Virgina State University and just under $117,000 from West Liberty University.

David Wellman, spokesman for Marshall University, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Community and technical colleges also saw cuts, the largest being nearly $140,000 from West Virginia University at Parkersburg, nearly $118,000 from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and $110,000 from BridgeValley Community and Technical College.

The state’s Higher Education Policy Commission will see its budget cut by $84,000 while the Council for Community and Technical College Education had its budget cut by nearly $105,000.

State finance officials said the FY 2016 cuts are primarily aimed at higher education, public education and the Department of Health and Human Resources. About $12 million of those cuts are vacancies in various departments which will not be filled.

The past two years the state has used across the board cuts to help offset sluggish revenues.

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