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University of Florida veterinary college staves off big funding cut


Gainesville, Fla. - The University of Florida veterinary college's pleas to state legislators and the university for minimal budget cuts achieved results.

GAINESVILLE, FLA. — The University of Florida veterinary college's pleas to state legislators and the university for minimal budget cuts achieved results.

The college was facing a 10 percent funding cut, following a 14 percent cut last year, but instead will have its funding for 2010 trimmed by less than 1 percent — partly because it is building a new animal hospital scheduled to open next fall.

"We're dancing in the streets here," says John Harvey, DVM, PhD, executive associate dean. The veterinary college was looking at having to trim up to 20 positions, he says.

"When you start listing numbers of faculty and staff that could be cut, people get pretty nervous," he says. "But we worked hard and the Legislature ultimately ended up giving the university a 6 percent cut. The vet school made a case to the university that we are unique — the only vet school in the state."

Because the veterinary college is buidling the new animal hospital, Harvey says there was a concern that it couldn't afford to staff it properly. Those fears were put to rest when the new budget was approved, Harvey says.

Even with a much smaller cut than expected, Harvey says the veterinary college still is hurting. Its small-animal hospital is losing $800,000 to $1 million per year — which the college supplements.

"It is still the economy, not so much the state support, that's hurting our hospital," he says. "It's not that we're not belt-tightening — it just didn't come from the Legislature."

The university hopes business will pick up again as the economy improves, and that it will happen in time for the new hospital opening in 2010.

Many other schools facing severe state budget cuts remain in the same boat as they were a few months ago.

The University of Tennessee's projected 13.6 percent veterinary budget cut is still on the table, but things are looking up for at least one other school.

Michigan State University (MSU) was facing a 50 percent cut to its agriculture extension program, but spokesperson Beth Steuver says the state House of Representatives decided instead to cut MSU's program by the same amount as other college programs — 3 percent.

The state Senate is now reviewing the proposal.

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