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Florida university system seeks $800M for facilities work

The request would have to be approved by lawmakers during the legislative session that starts Tuesday.
A quiet morning at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in St. Petersburg.
A quiet morning at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 5|Updated Jan. 6

The state university system’s Board of Governors on Wednesday approved a plan to ask lawmakers for $800 million that would go toward fixing a backlog of facility problems across most campuses.

If approved during the legislative session that starts Tuesday, the money would cover roughly half of the universities’ collective needs. The schools last month reported needing about $1.68 billion to fix aging buildings.

Only Florida Polytechnic University, the newest school in the system, reported having no need for facility maintenance projects.

Kevin Pichard, director of finance and facilities for the university system, said $800 million would “go a long way in helping the universities address the most critical needs in that $1.6 billion figure.”

The money would be aimed at improving facilities such as classrooms, labs, gymnasiums and offices. The average age of those facilities across the university system is 31 years.

“Using the analogy of a home ... if you bought a home 31 years ago and didn’t do any capital improvements, guess what? It’s time. Your roof needs to be replaced, your air conditioner needs to be replaced, your furnace needs to be replaced. And that’s really what we’re dealing with,” Pichard said during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Money would be allocated through a calculation that takes into account the size and age of facilities at each university. Marshall Criser, chancellor of the university system, said facility projects on the campuses will be prioritized based on how urgently they are needed.

“Whatever amount that the Legislature ultimately chooses to commit toward this, we’re going to be dealing with the highest and greatest needs of the system. It’s really prioritizing projects, maybe, rather than institutions. And from that perspective, it does have an equity to it,” Criser said.

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