SUNY to support hospitals

New York state is implementing funding cutbacks across the SUNY system to bail out the system’s struggling hospitals.

According to President Christopher Dahl, Upstate Medical University, Downstate Medical Center and the Long Island College Hospital recently encountered severe financial difficulties that required an increase in state funding. As a result, a number of SUNY schools, including Geneseo, are expected to lose a significant portion of their state funding under the state’s planned reconciliation bill.

Although SUNY initially requested an increase in state funding for the hospitals, the financial support was not granted in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recommended budget for the upcoming year. 

According to Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy, a lobbying effort earned a bill promising $50 million from the state Assembly and $27.8 million from the state Senate to go toward the hospitals. The Assembly and Senate have since merged the two separate bills. 

“The Senate and the assembly have reconciled their one-house budget bills, so there’s an agreement in principle now amongst the … governor, assembly and Senate over the broad outline of the budget,” Milroy said. “Funding to SUNY is identified in the budget, and the only real change is that in the reconciliation bill, they’ve added back $27.8 million to SUNY for funding to the hospitals.”

According to Dahl, if the bill is passed, Geneseo is expected to lose approximately $3 million in funding. To compensate for the decrease in state funding, Geneseo’s tuition fees will increase by $300. Dahl said that there would still be a significant loss of income.

“If we have to pick up the tab on the hospitals ... we’re going to be $3 million short,” Dahl said. “Even if you add in the additional tuition revenue … you still come out at about $1.5 million below where we need to be and below where we were last year.”

According to Dahl, not every state school will participate in the hospital bailout. Though Geneseo has reserve funds available to cover any potential shortcomings, campuses lacking sufficient reserve funds are unable to contribute to the bailout, leaving other universities to close the budget gap.

Milroy said that, until the official budget is approved and the final SUNY allocation is announced, there is no way of knowing how these financial changes will impact Geneseo. 

“What we need to emphasize about these numbers is that they are pure guesstimates,” Milroy said. 

According to Dahl, due to the funding cutbacks, the planned renovation of Red Jacket Dining Hall was put on hold until next year. 

“[The renovation project] would have required a complicated series of financial maneuvers to work, and it was just too big of a risk to close Red Jacket with Letchworth [Dining Hall] currently offline,” Dahl said. 

Dahl said that he takes issue with the state’s handling of the hospital bailout. 

“It is very, very unfair to charge more tuition to our students and then to take those dollars and put them into the operating budget of a hospital [and] not the medical schools … that seems to me a breach of responsibility on the part of the trustees and/or the state,” Dahl said. “That money shouldn’t go into running expensive hospitals. No matter how noble that is, that’s not the purpose of the SUNY budget.”