BOG prepares expense report for Legislature

The Board of Governors (BOG) met Thursday to approve $18 million for campus security as well as compile an expense report for the Legislature’s approval.

The security proposal included funds for an upgraded emergency notification system, additional officers and equipment for university police departments and a training program for faculty and staff to help them identify potentially dangerous students. It was the result of an 11-month study by three security subcommittees, and a BOG subcommittee agreed Wednesday to send the appropriation before the BOG for approval.

The approval of increased security measures would allocate $13.8 million for emergency notification systems across the state, $600,000 for full-time emergency managers at all 11 public universities in Florida’s State University System (SUS) and $3.08 million for an additional 61 police officers.

Gov. Gus Stavros agreed with the task force’s sentiment about the importance of safety despite budget cuts.

“We should say this must be done, forgetting the lack of funds. Somehow, the universities and the Legislature must find this $18 million to safeguard the students and faculty on our campus,” he said.

The BOG also approved the use of $160 million from the Capital Investment Trust Fund (CITF) to undertake student-recommended improvements on campuses around the state. The funds come from an administrative fee the students pay each semester with their tuition.

Students pay $4.67 per credit hour toward the CITF. According to Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the BOG, all of the money paid by the students will go toward funding projects for their benefit.

“This is money students pay through their fees, it is exempt from any budget cuts and extremely unlikely the Legislature will appropriate them elsewhere,” Edmonds said.

Of the $160 million bond, USF received $20.5 million.

According to SG President Garin Flowers, the University is not sure where the funds will be allocated. However, Flowers speculated on a possible project.

“We are considering a new wellness center that will be connected to the (recreation) center. It will include a new dining hall, more athletic equipment and a nutritional center,” Flowers said.

The board also discussed the overall budget cut the SUS faces for the 2008-2009 school year. The cuts, which totaled $189 million, represented a 5 percent budget cut from higher education, but were offset by $168 million in money from the Florida Lottery. The SUS lacks funding for almost 7,000 students. The overall goal, according to Edmonds, is to bring current enrollment in line with available funds.

USF plans to reduce enrollment of full-time equivalent students by 5.94 percent over the next three years.

BOG members stressed the importance of maintaining the 2+2 program, public universities’ partnership with community colleges.

“There will be no impact, nor is there the desire to impact (the 2+2) program … I think that is a very clear message we should be sending,” said Gov. Tico Perez.

While board members remained hopeful that the economy will bounce back within the next year or two, they didn’t discount the possibility of unforeseen circumstances.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming year; we don’t expect the economy to recover until 2010 or 2011,” Edmonds said.

Among the BOG’s attempts to bring the SUS’s expenditures in line with the Legislature’s appropriations, Gov. Ava L. Parker sought a practical explication of what reducing enrollment would mean.

“I also have a real concern about those students that we’ll be turning away,” she said. “Does that mean we’ll have thousands of students we’ll have to send rejection letters to?”