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Increased funding requested

The university asked for about a $7 million rise in state funds.

Temple will request a 5 percent increase in its state appropriation for the 2015-16  fiscal year, which, if approved by June 2015, would continue funding about 16 percent of the university’s budget and cover a broad range of its expenses.

If the increase is passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, Temple’s state appropriation would grow to slightly less than $147 million – about $7 million more than the most recent allocation.

Temple’s state funding has stayed flat during the past three years. For both the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, the university was denied requests for 3 percent increases in funding from the state to cover adjustments to the consumer price index, the system which determines inflation.

Ken Kaiser, Temple’s chief financial officer and treasurer, said this year is “a little bit different,” as this appropriation request could potentially land on a different governor’s desk.

Temple’s funding was cut under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who trailed Democratic candidate Tom Wolf 15 points in polling results released last week. Wolf and Corbett will go head-to-head in this November’s elections.

Kaiser likened the flat funding from the state to having a job but needing a raise after expenses rise.

“If your rent and car payment go up and your favorite restaurant charges more, but your salary stays the same, now all of a sudden it’s not worth as much,” he said. “You’re actually doing worse off with the same amount of money.”

Budget appropriation requests are due to the state government today.

Penn State, another state-related school, announced at a Sept. 19 meeting of its board of trustees that it would request a 6 percent increase in state funding to cover a new “entrepreneur-in-residence” program and additional funding for the Hershey Medical Center.

With the passing of that increase, Penn State’s commonwealth funding would swell to $307 million.

“We’re all going to get the same increase,” Kaiser said. “I hope [Penn State] gets 6 [percent], because that means we would, too.”

Whether or not the proposed increase could pass will depend on state politics.

Ken Lawrence, Temple’s senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, leads the university’s lobbying efforts in Harrisburg.

“The state will look at its own revenues before determining our funding,” Lawrence said.

“We have a lot of bipartisan support, but the state’s decision really comes down to economics,” he added.

Lawrence said one lawmaker who was particularly supportive of increased funding for Temple was Republican Jake Corman of the 34th Senatorial District, who chairs the Appropriations committee.

“He’s been a leading champion for funding higher education,” Lawrence said.

Corman’s office did not return a request for comment by press time.

Another supportive state senator is Democrat Larry Farnese, whose first district includes Center City, South Philadelphia and other Philadelphia neighborhoods. Farnese also serves on the senate appropriations committee.

Cameron Kline, Farnese’s communications director, said Farnese would support increasing funding for Temple.

“We’d hope that it could happen,” Kline said.

Lawrence declined to name specific legislators who weren’t as supportive of Temple, but noted that most were conservative Republicans not from the Philadelphia area.

Kaiser said a main issue stemming from flat funding was having to balance cuts and tuition increases.

“We can’t just say, ‘Well, the state cut funding,’ and then push it all onto the students,” Kaiser said. “You have to cut some services, too.” Temple has cut $110 million from its budget in the past three years, he said.

Penn State has received flat funding for the past four years.

“Internal reallocations, targeted budget reductions, strong enrollments and delaying planned additional budget support for facilities allow us to propose only a modest tuition increase,” Lisa Powers, a Penn State spokesperson, said in an email.

In July, Temple announced it would raise tuition by about 3.69 percent, effective this year. That same month, Penn State increased its tuition about 2.73 percent.

“Pennsylvania doesn’t really do a good job of funding public education,” Kaiser said. He added that “it’s been going on for decades,” and wasn’t the fault of a particular governor.

According to the most recent State Higher Education Finance report, Pennsylvania has cut funding to public higher education by about 20 percent during the past five years.

Through the past five years, Temple has only seen an increase in commonwealth appropriations once despite requesting a raise each year.

In 2011, Corbett proposed cutting Temple’s funding by more than half, which if passed would have been the biggest cut in Commonwealth appropriations since the state-related system was created in the 1960s. Instead, there was a 20 percent cut in funding, or roughly $32 million.

The year following those cuts, Temple received a five percent rise in commonwealth appropriations. Since 2012, Temple has seen level funding at $139.9 million.

Prior to 2012, the last time Temple received a raise in funding was in 2007.

The new governor is expected to announce his 2015-16 budget in February, and President Theobald will testify about the requested appropriation sometime in March.

The legislature and governor will negotiate until the final version is due on June 30.

Joe Brandt and Marcus McCarthy can be reached at news@temple-news.com

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