Friday, May 09, 2014

California Stem Cell Agency Budget Up 10.5 Percent

The California stem cell agency this week proposed a $17.9 million operational budget for the coming fiscal year, roughly a 10.5 percent increase over its current spending.

The largest expenditures in the proposed agency budget are for employee compensation, $12.1 million, up about 4 percent from current spending; grant reviews and meetings, $2.5 million, up 47 percent, and external services (outside contracting) $2 million, virtually unchanged.

The budget information on the agency's Web site was posted yesterday, only two business days before it is to be considered by the agency directors' Finance Subcommittee. The posted information did not explain or justify the increases. Nor did it contain a comparison to the agency's actual spending this year.

The year-to-year comparison was calculated by the California Stem Cell Report, based on figures that were presented to directors in the middle of March (see chart below) and those posted yesterday.
(Later information showed that the annual increase is about 9.5 percent, based on fresher figures for estimated spending this year.)

The boost in compensation is most likely tied to a slight increase in the size of the CIRM staff, which now totals 56. The largest component in the jump in the grant reviews and meeting expenses is a $300,000 meeting for the 600 recipients of the agency's grants. CIRM did not stage a grantee meeting during the current fiscal year.

The agency's operational budget does not include grants or awards for research, only the expenses for handing them out and overseeing their execution. The agency is limited by law to a budget of 6 percent of its awards, which will eventually total $3 billion. It has given out $1.7 billion so far.

The latest budget will be taken up on Monday by the Finance Subcommittee, which is chaired by Stephen Juelsgaard, former executive vice president of Genentech. It will be his first session as chairman of the finance panel. Juelsgaard has demonstrated a flinty-eyed approach to financial matters during full meetings of the CIRM governing board.

The new budget will also be the first for CIRM's new president, Randy Mills, who formally begins his job on Wednesday. However, the proposal probably does not likely to reflect any significant input from Mills, who has made his career in business. He may have proposals for changes in it after he officially begins work or perhaps even on Monday.
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