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Update Posted March 25, 2014

2014 Legislative Session Concludes

The 2014 Legislative Session has concluded and the University System of Georgia received strong support for its mission through the FY 2015 Budget, capital recommendations and key legislation.

“The session was highly successful for the University System, thanks to the continuing support by our partners in the General Assembly,” said Tom Daniel, senior vice chancellor for External Affairs. “The efforts of Chancellor Hank Huckaby, Executive Vice Chancellors Steve Wrigley and Houston Davis, and many individuals on our campuses were instrumental in the positive outcome for the System.”

Now that the FY 2015 Budget has been adopted by the General Assembly, it has been sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

Here are the highlights of the FY 2015 Budget:
• The overall budget increased from $1.883 billion to $1.939 billion, an increase $56 million or 2.97 percent.
• The budget maintains the current FY 2014 level of enrollment funding.
• The System received $9 million in funding for maintenance and operations of new facilities.
• The System received full funding for health insurance, retirees, TRS and ERS, totaling $27.3 million.
• The System received $11.4 million to fund merit pay and employee recruitment and retention salary adjustments.
• The System received $1 million for one payback project at Georgia Southern University.
• The System received an additional $2 million in funding to support the Graduate Medical Education (GME) initiative, bringing the total funding for this initiative to $5.275 million.
• The System received $2.5 million for enhancements to GALILEO to include efforts to provide open access materials to include lower cost textbooks. This is an important part of System efforts to help students with the cost of college by finding alternatives to textbooks. A new pilot program launched by UGA in the 2013-2014 academic year created a free, open-source biology textbook that saved students almost $200,000 and represents an 8-to-1 return on the $25,000 investment.
• The System received a net $2.8 million in other items including but not limited to funding for Archives, Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS), the Competitive EDGE program, and a reduction to Georgia Gwinnett College in accordance with the seven-year phase out plan of initial start-up funding.

FY 2015 Capital Budget
In addition to the Budget, the USG fared extremely well in the capital bond package, which totaled more than $223.9 million in funding for capital projects out of the total bond package of $878.0 million.

The funding of these projects goes a long way in addressing the capital needs of the University System, said Daniel.

In the category of Major Repair and Renovation, the final Budget appropriated $40.0 million. In addition, $4 million was appropriated for MRR funding for UGA’s Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station.

Under “Equipment Funding,” the Budget appropriates:
• $7 million for Georgia State University, Humanities/Law Building
• $2.9 million for Clayton State University’s Science Building
• $5 million for Georgia Regents University’s Cancer Research Building

In the category of “New Construction Funds,” the Budget appropriates:
• $44.7 million for UGA’s Science Building
• $9.5 million for Georgia Southern University’s Military Science Building

In the category of “Planning and Design Funds,” the Budget appropriates:
• $1.4 million in design funds for Albany State University’s Fine Arts Center
• $1.7 million for Georgia Tech’s Price-Gilbert-Crosland Tower renewal
• $1 million for Georgia College & State University’s Historic Beeson Hall renovation
• $2.5 million for Savannah State University’s Science and Technology facility
• $1.1 million for Georgia Gwinnett College’s Academic Building (FY14 Amended Budget)

In the “Small Capital” projects category, the budget appropriates:
• $4.4 million for Gordon State College’s Hightower Library renovation
• $7.75 million for UGA’s Baldwin Hall expansion and renovation
• $4.95 million for Columbus State University’s Arnold Hall renovation
• $2.5 million for University of North Georgia’s Oconee Campus annex
• $2.5 million for Atlanta Metropolitan College’s infrastructure renovation and upgrades
• $2.7 million for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s Phase II Lab Science Building
• $1.9 million for Valdosta State University’s University Center renovation
• $3.8 million for Georgia Regents University’s Reese Library HVAC replacement
• $750,000 for Fort Valley State University’s Art Gallery and Kell Building
• $2.5 million to South Georgia State College’s Davis Hall renovation
• $2.7 million to Armstrong Atlantic State University’s ARC Building renovation
• $4.5 million to Georgia Tech’s Hazardous Material Storage Facility
• $3.9 million to Georgia College & State University’s Mayfair and Macintosh renovations

In the “Other Projects” category, the Budget appropriates:
• $2 million to Middle Georgia State College’s Aviation College airplane replacement program
• $9.9 million to Kennesaw State University’s Brandsmart property purchase
• $2.5 million to the Regents Central Office for digital broadband PeachNet access
• $1 million to UGA for equipment at the Agricultural Experiment Station
• $5 million to Georgia Regents University for improvements to the Roosevelt Warm Springs Health Facility
• $10 million to Georgia State University’s Science Park, Phase II
• $300,000 to UGA’s Tift Building
• $11.5 million for UGA to design and construct a Turfgrass Research and Education Building

In the “Georgia Public Libraries” category, the Budget appropriates:
• $2 million for computer replacement
• $900,000 for the Mountain Regional Library in Young Harris, Towns County
• $500,000 for the Villa Rica Library in Carroll County
• $2 million for the Hogansville Public Library in Troup County
• $1.4 million for the Barnesville-Lamar County Library in Lamar County

The budget also appropriates funding for a number of “pass through” entities:
• $8.97 million to the Georgia Research Alliance for equipment
• $290,000 to Georgia Public Telecommunications to replace an antenna at the WACG radio station
• $1.1 million to Georgia Public Telecommunications for equipment and communication systems upgrades

Key USG Legislation
Several key pieces of legislation affecting the USG received favorable attention.

As reported in the last issue of the Legislative Update, HB 788 is the property tax exemption legislation for the USG P3 initiative. This legislation was approved in the House on Feb. 26 by a vote of 166-5. The Senate approved the bill 44-7 on March 18 and it now goes to the Governor for his signature and then before the voters in the November general election as a ballot referendum.

The House and Senate have passed a gun bill that did not include campus carry and maintains current law for USG institutions. Churches may opt in if they so choose.

In addition, SB 326, which provides for limitations and reporting on the System’s capital liability obligations, was adopted. This legislation prohibits USG from entering into any new capital leasing obligations when the annual capital liability obligation exceeds seven percent of the System’s prior year revenue and requires an annual report to be submitted to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker and Appropriations Chairs.

Posted by Sonja Roberts
Published in: Senate Bill, House Bill, Real Estate, Legislation

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