Monday, June 06, 2016

$18.9 Million Spending Plan for California's Stem Cell Agency, Up Nearly 10 Percent

The California stem cell agency is set to approve tomorrow an $18.9 million operational budget for its coming fiscal year to pay for such things as employee salaries and pencils, an increase of nearly 10 percent over its current spending levels.

The budget will come before the Finance Subcommittee of the agency's governing board, which is expected to approve the proposal with few changes. The full board is expected to ratify the budget at its meeting June 15 in Berkeley.

The $3 billion agency operates under 6 percent spending cap imposed by Proposition 71, the ballot measure that created the research effort in 2004. The agency has $180 million (6 percent of the $3 billion) to spend on operational matters over its life, not including research grants. It has run through roughly $105 million.

When the $180 million is gone, that is the end of the money unless the agency can wangle extra cash from the legislature or private sources. Funding for both expenses and research grants is expected to run out in 2020.

CIRM documents show that the 10 percent budget increase over estimated spending for this fiscal year is tied largely to the fact that the agency did not hire as many persons as expected during the current fiscal year.  In the budget proposal, presented by Finance Director Chila Silva-Martin, the agency said it plans to fill out its staff about 55 in the coming year, although retention issues are likely to surface in the next few years because of the lack of funding beyond 2020.

Also playing a role in the bigger budget is a step up in the number of grant review sessions.

The largest expenditure for the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- $13.3 million --  is for salaries and benefits. The figure is up from $11.5 million for the current year. The second largest expense categories come from outside contracting and application reviews and meetings. Both categories have nearly identical totals -- about $1.8 million each. Outside contracting is about the same as last year but reviews and meetings are up from $1.4 million.

The public can listen in on tomorrow's session via a toll-free number. A teleconference site where public comment is possible is located in Irvine. That site is in addition to the main location in Oakland. Full details can be found on the agenda.

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