Pinellas County Commission Vice Chair Ken Welch is writing a letter to the state Senate asking for a “fair and balanced solution” to funding for state universities. The commission agreed Feb. 14 to oppose proposed cuts to the University of South Florida’s budget.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commission Vice-Chair Ken Welch asked fellow commissioners Feb. 14 if they would support sending a letter to Tallahassee protesting proposed budget cuts to the University of South Florida.
Last week, the state Senate submitted its proposed budget, which includes about $400 million in cuts to the state university system, including a $104 million budget cut for the University of South Florida, according to a press release from USF.
Under the Senate proposal, USF's funding would drop to $74 million from the current level of $178 million, representing a cut of 58 percent. Budgets at other state universities would also receive significant cuts, according to the Senate proposal.
USF officials said the budget cut increases to $128 million when other factors are considered, such as a loss of funding for the pharmacy program, loss of funding for USF Polytechnic and absorbing the costs of salaries for Polytechnic staff and faculty.
At an emergency meeting of the USF Board of Trustees, President Judy Genshaft referred to the Senate's proposed budget as "draconian," calling upon the USF community, alumni and friends to show their "Unstoppable" spirit by defending the university.
If passed unchanged, the cuts would have a severe impact on all university services and programs in place for students and faculty. In addition, university officials said, the Tampa Bay community would suffer from the loss of the economic impact USF has on the region.
"We really can make a difference and now is the time," Genshaft said. "It's not a done deal. We can change this."
Welch suggested that the county commission make it clear that the state needs to seek a “fair and balanced solution” for funding the state’s universities.