Florida University System Seeks Money to Repair Old Buildings

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“These are Florida state assets that have not been maintained,” board member Eric Silagy said at a meeting of the board’s facilities committee. “And let’s be honest, this problem has been going on for decades.” The board on Thursday voted to hold a special meeting ahead of the 2022 legislative session to amend a budget request to include additional funding for building maintenance. The legislative session will begin on January 11.

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A deferred maintenance task force convened in 1986 calculated that the average age of buildings in the university system was 21 years. A subsequent task force in 1998 stated that the average age of buildings was 24 years.

State university facilities occupy nearly 100 million square feet of land, with approximately 41 million square feet made up of “educational and general facilities” that include classrooms, laboratories, gymnasiums, and offices. The council’s budget request will be for the maintenance of education-related buildings.

“Generally speaking, non (educational and general) establishments are self-funded; they generate revenue which, in turn, funds operations and maintenance, while facilities (educational and general) depend on dollars allocated by the state to fund operations and, most importantly, maintenance, ”said a document posted on the Board of Governors website.

In a survey conducted by the board of trustees, universities said they had a backlog of more than $ 1.8 billion in maintenance projects. Only one of the state’s 12 universities, Florida Polytechnic University, said it had no building maintenance projects needed. Florida Polytechnic is the newest university in the system.

Kevin Pichard, director of finance and facilities for the university system, said university self-assessments included projects that did not necessarily fall under the deferred maintenance category.

The board decided to consider making a request for $ 800 million based in part on a report presented on Thursday that indicated the university system was in arrears of nearly $ 747 million in maintenance costs. .

“The $ 1.8 billion figure is deferred maintenance, it’s the broken latches, it’s the oil changes,” said Pichard, comparing the needs of universities to car maintenance. “But it’s also the 150,000-mile engine that needs to be replaced, that’s the projected capital requirements.”

At its previous meeting, the council approved a legislative budget request that included approximately $ 39 million in funding for deferred building maintenance.

“Think about it a bit; you have $ 40 million for 40 million square feet, that’s less than a dollar a square foot to deal with deferred maintenance. That was actually supposed to keep the plan going. I’m not a rocket scientist, but less than a dollar a square foot won’t sustain your plan, ”Pichard said.

Senator Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, asked Governor Ron DeSantis’ budget manager on Thursday about the maintenance needs of university buildings at a meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

Chris Spencer, the governor’s director of policy and budget, said the state planned to receive federal stimulus funds under the American Rescue Plan Act that could provide money for maintenance projects in the schools.

“These funds would be available for state college or university projects for further review of a list of additional projects in the future. Again, the governor has yet to release his budget, but there is still an opportunity for the legislature to consider plans for the university system and the state college system, ”Spencer said.

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