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Chesapeake requests flat local funding for operating budget

Dr. Viniar seeks counties’ support for Center for Allied Health and Athletics

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College officials are requesting flat local funding for the college’s Fiscal Year 2012 operating budget, which would mark the third straight year of flat funding from the college’s five support counties.

The college is also requesting $9 million as the local capital share for a Center for Allied Health and Athletics, which would allow Chesapeake to access $27 million the state has already committed for a project that would address critical space shortages and workforce training needs.

"We understand the current fiscal environment – all of our counties are facing significant budget challenges," President Barbara Viniar told elected officials from the college’s support counties Wednesday night. "That recognition is reflected in our request for flat operating budget funding, even as rising enrollment drives increased demand for services."

Dr. Viniar said the result of those two factors – flat local funding and rising enrollment – have helped create a situation where local per-student funding has decreased 20 percent since FY08. State funding has decreased 23 percent in the same time period, leaving Chesapeake’s students and staff to bear the brunt of rising costs. Tuition could increase as much as $9 per credit hour next fiscal year – "and even with financial aid options, I worry about our students having to shoulder that financial burden," said Dr. Viniar.

The college is asking its five support counties – Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot – to commit local funding for a Center for Allied Health and Athletics that would be created by an expansion of the college’s current Physical Education Building. Dr. Viniar – who noted that $9 million commitment can be bonded and paid over time – said this project will allow the college to create an expanded, state-of-the-art center for all of its allied health programs, including nursing. It will also renovate the college’s 43-year-old physical education center, whose mechanical systems are well past their useful life.

"We have outstanding nursing and allied health programs, but the space in which they are operating is both too small and out of date," said Dr. Viniar. "We need to be able to grow our nursing and allied health programs to meet community needs, and we have to ensure our students have access to top-flight training facilities."

Dr. Viniar said the college is assured of the 75 percent state funding only if the project begins in FY12.

"If the local share isn’t approved, we would then have to go back into the queue of community college projects for FY13," said Dr. Viniar. "We run the risk of delaying the project three or four years if we don’t take advantage of the state funding that is available in FY12.

"The state has recognized the worthiness of this project by approving the 75 percent state funding and we hope local officials will understand the need to move forward with this project if we are to meet our region’s health-care training needs," she added.

The Memorial Hospital’s 2015 move from its present location – where the college currently delivers nursing and several allied health programs – is another reason for moving ahead with the requested renovation and relocation.

"While Shore Health has not yet revealed its plan for the facility, there really is no reason for us to have our nursing and allied health programs at that site if it is no longer a hospital," said Dr. Viniar. "The most economical and efficient solution is to bring those programs to our main campus."

Nursing students, members of other allied health programs, and student athletes were all in attendance at the budget meeting to show their support for the proposed project.

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