Budget Cuts Threaten Florida State Projects

A tight state budget  will the advancement of Florida State’s Center for Asian Art, and other proposed university projects, according to local university officials.

“The University has requested a matching appropriation through the Courtelis Matching Gift Program equal to the amount that was donated,” said Mark Bertolami, the director of Facilities Planning and Space Management at FSU. “If the state’s funding does not materialize, it’s possible that the gift may be returned to the donor or re-directed for another purpose or that the project’s scope would be essentially cut in half.”

In 2007, Helga Wall-Apelt presented FSU with $4 million to fund the Asian Art Center at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. The FSU Foundation received the gift and was to administer it for expansion. However, this gift falls into a category in which, to begin such improvements, the state is to provide additional funding for completion.

According to the state of Florida appropriations regulations, when monies are donated for a project that a university proposes, the state matches the donation with allocated funds. This has been an ongoing issue because of the decrease in available funds. With not enough funds to match, all university projects proposed are being put onto a longer waiting list.

A proposed Appropriations Implementing bill for the 2011-2012 fiscal year will be considered Monday. The 2010 bill died April 30, 2010 and changes that will be discussed are critical this session for the advancement of higher education projects.

In the case of Florida A&M, Carla Willis, vice president of university relations and executive director of FAMU Foundation, Inc., said, “Since the inception of the Alec P. Courtelis Facilities Enhancement Challenge Grant Program, the university has not had a larger donor make a qualifying donation.”

FAMU participated with the State University System of Florida Board of Governors to assess the need to have appropriations for the construction and maintenance of student life facility projects in January.

This assessment stated that it was assumed that state appropriations would not be needed to maintain or operate the projects, cutting expected additional aid. There was also a five-year plan asked universities to have an idea of what funds would be needed to carry out the necessities once projects were reprioritized.

“The Legislature has not funded the grant program in the past three years, and we do not see the university being adversely affected by this one year temporary suspension of the program,” said Willis.

As several Florida universities wait for the fate of their proposed projects, decisions made in the legislature this week will be one that could affect Florida universities and future projects, and improvements requiring state funding.