Proposed 24% state funding cut would cripple Penn's veterinary school, dean warns

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Jul 28, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Philadelphia -- In an open letter to friends and supporters, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school warns that a proposed 24 percent cut in state funding for the school will have a "devastating impact" on the school and the Commonwealth.

A revised state budget Gov. Edward G. Rendell proposed on June 26 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 included a 24 percent cut for Penn Vet. As of today, the state is in its fifth week without a budget as the Legislature continues debate. Rendell says some short-term actions might be necessary to keep government running and workers receiving paychecks, but didn't specify what those actions might be.

"A cut of this magnitude will endanger our ability to educate the state's next generation of veterinarians, to support Pennsylvania's economically important agricultural and horse-racing industries and to provide much-needed clinical services," writes Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine in her letter posted on the school’s Web site.

"Now, more than ever, with outbreaks of the H1N1 virus and the continued threat of avian flu, Pennsylvania cannot afford to lose the essential services Penn provides in safeguarding the food supply and identifying, eliminating and controlling infectious disease," Hendricks writes.

"We understand that the global financial climate continues to create dire economic conditions for the state and appreciate the support the Commonwealth has provided in the school's 125-year history. We hope that in making the difficult decisions in crafting a final budget, the governor and our legislative leaders will reflect on our critical role in protecting the state and restore our funding."

In response to queries from friends and supporters asking how they could help, Hendricks says some of them launched a letter-writing campaign "to draw attention to this impending calamity."

An addendum to Hendricks' letter lists several financial and service points about Penn Vet, including the fact that it provides employment for nearly 1,000 people, with more than 90 percent of its operating budget paying salaries and benefits for 150 faculty and 850 staff members, including nursing and technical staff in two world-class teaching hospitals.

It also cites the school's role as a key partner in state programs to prevent "economically devastating" livestock and poultry disease, contributing the viability of livestock and poultry industries, developing treatments for animals and people, protecting the food supply and public health and providing other vital services.