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Regional News

SUNY Upstate Grows As Budget Shrinks

By Joyce Gramza

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wrvo/local-wrvo-931186.mp3

Syracuse, NY –
Central New York's largest employer is continuing to expand despite continued cuts in state funding.

SUNY Upstate Medical University is moving full speed ahead with some 225 million dollars in new construction projects.

Doctor David Smith, president of Upstate, says it has become increasingly self-sufficient in bringing in the revenue needed for growth.

He says among the planned expansions to be privately funded are a 60-million-dollar cancer center just west of the hospital a 72-million-dollar expansion of its research labs, and a 40-million-dollar campus expansion west of Interstate 81.

"The vast majority of that-- actually a little over hal-- is going to be from self-retired debt," Smith says. "In other words, without state support."

Meanwhile, Smith says Governor David Paterson and the state Division of Budget just informed SUNY of a 23-million-dollar mid-budget cut.

He said Upstate's share of that will be 800 thousand dollars, emphasizing New York's continuing "disinvestment in public higher education."

While Upstate is increasingly independent, Smith says it's still regulated like a state agency.

But, he says, he's not whining.

"We're just making an observation so that the public understands, as well as Albany, that it takes adaption and self-sufficiency," he says. "But we've got to also understand that to preserve a public mission, it is taking a new type of business model that we've never seen before."

Smith says upstate's education, medicine and research missions are sustainable, but he says its role in the public safety net is a major concern because burn and trauma centers in similar circumstances have been shrinking or disappearing around the country.

"We're having to subsidize that public mission with dollars earned like any other public hospitals," he says.

He adds that in a community "at the intersection of two major interstates and other major routes of travel such as airports, you don't want to go without a trauma system."