Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stem Cell Agency Proposes 7 Percent Budget Hike, Seeks $50 Million in Private Funds

The California stem cell agency is proposing an operational budget of $17.8 million for the coming fiscal year, an increase of 7.2 percent over estimated spending for the current year ending June 30.

Financial documents (proposed budget and finance report) prepared for tomorrow's CIRM governing board meeting also showed that CIRM hopes to snag "$50 million in new, outside financial commitment for CIRM programs." This would represent the first major effort in recent years by CIRM to solicit private funds. The "draft goal" is in keeping with the agency's move to build a base of non-governmental funding.

Currently it is financed with cash that the state, which is mired in a financial crisis, must borrow. While CIRM's budget is increasing, the general fund budget for the entire state has plummeted from $103 billion in 2007-2008 to $87 billion this year.

The proposed CIRM budget also disclosed the agency will be facing substantial new costs – $1 million annually – for rent beginning in November 2015. CIRM has been operating rent-free since 2005 because of an $18 million recruitment package put together by the city of San Francisco.

The largest item in the proposed budget is salaries and benefits at $11 million, up from a projected $9.3 million for this year. The agency, which is administering $1.3 billion in grants involving hundreds of researchers, projects an increase in staff to 59. The agency currently has 51 employees, according to the finance report.

Outside contracts are the second largest expense at $3.4 million ($3 million this year) with grant reviews, meetings and workshops at $2.2 million(no comparable figure for this year).

By law, the stem cell agency operates under a budget cap of 6 percent of bond proceeds under the terms of Proposition 71, the ballot initiative that created CIRM.

In addition to tomorrow's review, the budget will be examined by the directors Finance Subcommittee April 2 before coming back for final approval in late May.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated that the rent costs would rise to $1 million beginning in 2016. In fact, the increase will begin in November 2015. CIRM has revised the start date.) Sphere: Related Content

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