Tracking the CIRM: A $26 Million Operations Budget, 44 Percent Boost From the Current Year
New communications plan on the table in May
Editor’s note: The following is a standing feature of the California Stem Cell Report — a calendar of upcoming events involving the state stem cell agency, officially known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The calendar appears weekly or more often, depending on developments.
On Tuesday, the CIRM Finance Subcommittee is scheduled to act on a $26 million operational budget for the coming fiscal year for the California stem cell and gene therapy program.
The proposed budget is up 44 percent from the estimated spending — $18.2 million — for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The agency expects to hire 10 additional employees during the coming year. Currently, it has two job openings.
CIRM’s budget presentation is missing a key table — one that compares estimated spending for this year to the proposed budget for 2022-23 in each major category. That leads to an erroneous impression that the proposed budget amounts to only a 14 percent hike over current spending instead of actually a 44 percent increase.
All the budget documents can be found on the agenda. Unspecified changes were made in them Friday.
(Back in the days when another president and another chair were leading CIRM, the agency suffered from serious budgeting issues. Here are just a couple of stories about the matter: CIRM's Budget Preparation Problems a 'Bit Alarming' and The Murky World of $2 Million in CIRM Spending.)
On May 2, the Communications Subcommittee will consider a communications plan for the coming fiscal year. The plan has not yet been communicated to the public, but hopefully it will be posted online by this coming Tuesday (only three business days before the meeting). Otherwise, it will be difficult for stakeholders, CIRM board members and the public to engage on the critical issues.
Currently, the agency has 46 employees, down from 60-plus several years ago. The agency lost a significant number of employees as the result of its up-and-down financing dictated by the ballot measure that created it in 2004. The measure, like 2020 ballot initiative, had a legal limit on the amount of funding for CIRM, as the agency is known.
In about 10 years, the agency will once again have to find more cash but not before losing a significant number of veteran employees, who will leave as they seek more financial stability. That is one of the perils of ballot-box budgeting, as the practice is known.
All of the meetings are open to the public via the Internet, by phone or at remote conference locations around the state. The public can comment on any subject, including those not on the agenda. Instruction for public access can be found on the agendas.
Look for a spate of meetings in the next couple of weeks. They will be the prelude to the next meeting of the full, 35-member board May 26. The board is likely to meet again in June in a previously unscheduled session. The agency has a very full plate that now includes actions involving the selection of a new chair and kick-starting its overdue affordability program.
However, the board’s schedule falls far short of the numerous two-day meetings held prior to 2011.
Here is a link to a summary of how the board is configured, member qualifications and related matters. The board was created and legally named the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee by Proposition 71 in 2004. Some persons argue that the name is a bit of political fluff to help win approval of the ballot measure in 2004.
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