Academics at the University of Maryland's professional schools in Baltimore are waging a fierce campaign to change a proposed 1993 budget that -- among other things -- would slash by half the number of students who could enroll in law and social work.
The plan to cut law and social work enrollments by 675 students, as well as cut faculty at the two schools by one-third, is contained in a budget submitted under protest by the president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore, Dr. Errol L. Reese.
At the same time these cuts are proposed, the campus is being asked to go forward with improvements to the medical school, faculty merit pay raises and building repairs.
Dr. Reese said he opposes spending money on such enhancements as building repairs at the expense of the law and social work schools. He has asked the University of Maryland System chancellor, Donald N. Langenberg, to allow the campus to postpone such items. "Now is the time to sustain programs like law and social work," Dr. Reese said. "There will be a time to enhance the medical school and restore facilities money."
UMAB has been the most vocal in opposition to the University of Maryland Board of Regents' decision to go forward this fall with enhancements despite a budget crisis that is forcing some campuses to reduce their course offerings. Throughout the public university system, roughly $43 million is being redirected to enhancements, building repairs and merit pay, as well as some uncontrollable increases in health insurance and fringe benefits, in the proposed 1993 budget, according to a state education official who reviewed the detailed budget.
The budget was approved by regents in late September. As the impact became more widely known, key lawmakers began to question the extras.
One of them, Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore, said the money proposed to be spent on enhancements is likely to be cut by her committee or the executive branch unless it is redirected to law and social work programs. She said she has begun calling regents this week to suggest that they take another look at the budget.
"I don't want to cut anything out of higher education, but the committee will do it if it is in the wrong place," Senator Hoffman said.
"The regents seem to be sticking to these enhancement priorities despite the fact we are in a fiscal crisis," she said. "I am concerned that the regents have not met and looked at the things they were planning to spend money on and said, 'Look, let's do it differently.' "
Yesterday, Chancellor Langenberg said he is gathering facts to decide whether it is appropriate at this stage to change the UMAB budget, which is now being reviewed by the executive branch.
He noted that extra money for the medical school is a priority on the UMAB campus, and that not all enhancements or building repairs should be halted in a budget crisis.
The budget preparation process for the year beginning in July was more complicated than usual because of plunging estimates of state revenues.
The state Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning initially gave the university system a budget that included an extra $54 million to cover employee fringe benefits as well as merit pay, building repair commitments, extras for the medical school and the University of Maryland at College Park.
But after they added the extras, state budget officials looked at projected tax revenues again and cut the university budget by 12.3 percent -- or about the same amount they had added for the special projects.
University officials decided to go ahead with the projects anyway, partly out of concern that if they didn't spend money on the items in the year they were authorized, the state wouldn't fund them in future years. The decision meant shifting money from existing programs.
But Deputy Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester said the university system is free to spend its base budget as educators think best and could come in now with budget amendments. The governor will make his own recommendation to the General Assembly Jan. 3.
Dr. Reese, whose budget calls for laying off 92 people, including 30 faculty, said he has written three letters expressing concerns over his budget.
The chair of the regents' finance committee, Ann Hull, said this week that she assumed the budget had the support of the campus president. She said she did not receive Dr. Reese's letter.