Forget money for building, Scott wants funds returned, UF hears
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 6:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 6:18 p.m.
Not only will state universities lack money for construction and maintenance in the next few years, but they also will have to give some unspent money back.
A committee of the Florida Board of Governors heard a report Wednesday about bleak prospects of funding from the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO. Officials now are estimating that there will be zero money from PECO, which pays for building construction through a tax on utilities, in 2012-13 as well as 2013-14.
“The situation has not gotten better. In fact, it’s gotten considerably worse,” said Chris Kinsley, the Board of Governors’ director of finance and facilities.
Compounding the problem, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for state universities, colleges and K-12 schools to return as much as $250 million in previously authorized funding. In a letter last week, Scott asked for recommendations by Feb. 7.
Kinsley said state universities will have an earlier deadline, Jan. 25, to identify projects that might be put off to meet the request. Board member Dean Colson said the governor has the authority only to take back money that hasn’t been spent and is slated for older projects.
Last year, Scott vetoed $165 million intended for education construction, including $6 million for the University of Florida’s Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona and $750,000 for an expansion of Santa Fe College’s Kirkpatrick Center. The governor included money for the Kirkpatrick Center in a budget proposal released last month.
UF has used PECO to fund a number of campus building projects over the years as well as building maintenance. University officials have warned of a failure of infrastructure as the lack of funding forces repair projects to be delayed.
But UF has moved ahead with addressing the absence of state funding for building construction, using donations and other sources for projects such as its new medical education building. The Board of Governors on Wednesday approved $31 million in bonds for renovations to the Corey Village apartments, money that will be repaid through housing revenue.
With the absence of PECO funding for other projects, board member Norman Tripp said that universities should consider other sources for building projects such as tuition.
“We’re only waiting for the inevitable,” he said.
The issue was discussed at board committee meetings that preceded today’s meeting of the full board. Items on the agenda include a report from the Higher Education Coordinating Council, co-chaired by UF Trustee Marshall Criser III, on settling disputes regarding the creation of new degree programs, institutes, campuses or centers.
Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more stories on the University of Florida, visit www.thecampussun.com.
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