USF lobbies for $22.5 million for downtown medical school


USF is lobbying for $22.5 million in state funding to continue with the next phase of the downtown medical school plan. 

In February, USF’s request to relocate its new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Heart Institute to downtown Tampa was approved, and in June, Gov. Rick Scott allotted $17 million from the state budget to fund it. Though combining the medical school and the heart institute cut down on costs, the university is still seeking $22.5 million more from the state in 2016 to continue with this project.

The total cost for the project is about $153 million. According to the presentation given to the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) by USF President Judy Genshaft, $41 million of the total cost is expected to come from private sources. Meanwhile, the remaining $111.6 million is requested from the state and only $56.1 has been secured to date. 

According to Genshaft, the $22.5 million from the Florida Legislature in 2016 would keep construction on schedule to start in August of 2017 and finish for fall of 2019.

The first step to fund any university construction project is getting board approval. The BOG approves a 3-year Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO), a program that provides universities with grants construction and maintenance using taxes, which serves as a funding request. It is then submitted to the Legislature, which creates a budget for all universities to be approved by the Governor. 

According to the State University System of Florida website, PECO is the primary source — and sometimes the only source, depending on the state budget year — of facility funding for the System.

When the BOG meets in November, it will submit another list. The Legislature would then write the state budget and submit it to the Governor to sign off on. He can either approve the budget or veto it but not change it.

Mark Walsh, USF assistant vice president for government relations, does not anticipate any shortcomings on the funding.

“It’s not a slam dunk. It’s certainly not easy. A lot of work goes into it but I do believe it will happen because of our community buy in,” Walsh said. 

Genshaft did not seemed concerned with the funding, either. Earlier this semester, during her fall address, she said the USF system leads the state in getting its construction projects funded. 

“It’s worth noting that the total project construction is also supported by private giving and support, making (up) almost 30 percent of the total project cost. In addition to the prior gift from the Morsani family, we’re working hard on other fundraising opportunities,” Genshaft said during the Sept. 22 BOG meeting.

Genshaft said the university is not at the point of naming particular donors but that private donors are waiting for the state to get on board. 

“A lot of people support the university,” Walsh said. “There are a lot of people that want to step up and help but are waiting for the state.”