State Oks funds for Tufts; Penn awaits budget action


State Oks funds for Tufts; Penn awaits budget action

Oct 01, 2009

Grafton, Mass. — After months of planning for the worst of budget cuts, Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is celebrating the Legislature's move to earmark $2.5 million for the school next year. "The bottom line is it was such a challenging year in Massachusetts that we're so appreciative of being back in the budget," says Dr. Deborah T. Kochevar, Tufts' dean.

Gov. Deval Patrick's budget proposal earlier this year had cut all funding for Tufts in the 2010 budget. He also had cut the school's appropriated funding from $5.5 million to $2.75 million last year to navigate the state's financial crisis.

Rumors swirled after the announcement of the governor's budget that Tufts would close without state support, but Kochevar refuted those claims.

"I think it was a difficult year for everyone," she says. "But I think just philosophically, we at the school all agreed we couldn't just sit around and wring our hands."

So school leaders met with regional legislators, and Kochevar said many local lawmakers, who have visited the school or leaned on Tufts to solve rabies problems along Cape Cod, understand the value the college adds to the state.

New versions of the state budget started at $500,000 and eventually rose to $2.5 million, with Patrick deciding to let the appropriation stay in the final version of the bill. Though it wasn't the $5.5 million appropriated last year, the $2.5 million from the state almost matches it final contribution of $2.75 million to Tufts last year. Money is tight, but Kochevar says the college will proceed pretty much as usual.

"I think we're still in the mode of being very cautious for the year. We did not have to do layoffs, but we did hold a number of positions open," she says. "Those positions will be filled very carefully, if at all."

But for the benefit of students, a tuition increase last year was revisited and decreased for this school year, Kochevar adds.

"The state is just trying to balance their budget, and we just have to help them understand why the vet school is a priority," Kochevar says. "You want to be positive and forward-looking. Yes, this is difficult, but it's difficult for everyone, so here's how we're making lemonade."

Another private institution that relies on state support and hopes cuts won't be too severe is the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.

In April, Pennsylvania leaders predicted a $2.3 billion state deficit and a 10 percent, $4 million cut to Penn's funding. Months later, as the only state yet to sign a 2010 budget, Pennsylvania's deficit reached $3.2 billion. Penn spokesman John Donjes says they are now anticipating a 16 to 24 percent cut in state funding.

Dr. Joan Hendricks, Penn's dean, has said that this year's class will continue as usual, with no cuts planned. Donjes adds that school leaders don't know when the final state budget can be expected.