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BOG approves over $14 million for completion of downtown med school and heart institute

The Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Health Institute is expected to open in late 2019. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/USF.EDU

The Board of Governors (BOG) Facilities Committee approved a Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) request this month that will possibly give USF an additional $14.6 million to help complete the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Health Institute in downtown Tampa, which is scheduled to open in late 2019.

The decision comes after a workshop meeting the committee had in October in which schools within the State University System (SUS) presented top-priority projects that administrators want to fund with PECO dollars.  

According to a fact sheet put out by the BOG, PECO is used to fund new teaching and research facilities along with maintaining existing buildings.

In the past, USF has used PECO money for a wide array of construction projects like the initial building of the Interdisciplinary Sciences (ISA) building, the Communication Sciences & Disorders building and the Engineering Building III.

At the October meeting, USF President Judy Genshaft and Senior Vice President David Lechner requested the $14.6 million for Morsani — described as the top priority — and over $9 million to help finish the build-out of lab space in the ISA building on the Tampa campus.

USF has already received about $97 million in state funding for the Morsani project, which, according to university spokesperson Adam Freeman, covers about 87 percent of the total requested state funds of $112 million.

“ … this year’s request of $14.5M would cover the remaining portion of the original ask,” Freeman wrote in an email to The Oracle. “These funds would be used to help finish construction of the building.”

According to an independent research institute, Florida TaxWatch, “allocations for capital outlays are decided based on three‐year and five‐year plans. The three‐year plan takes funding into consideration, whereas the five‐year plan is simply an assessment of everything the university believes it needs over the next five years without regard to funding.”

The statewide three-year plan is the one approved by BOG and is what will be submitted to the Legislature as a part of the SUS legislative budget request. USF will know how much it will receive this spring. 

"The BOG simply approved USF’s request to include the Morsani project and the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building as part of their legislative budget request for all state universities," Freeman wrote. "It will be up to the legislature and governor in the upcoming session to determine how much of the $14.5M request will be funded this year."

The request that was approved this month by the BOG includes funding for Morsani, but denies funding for the ISA project again, following a pattern, given funding was also denied for the project in 2016 and 2017.

However, the BOG will ask for the Legislature’s approval for USF and other universities to use carryforward funds — money in the prior year’s budget that wasn’t spent. If this is approved, USF will be able to use the approximately $9 million for the ISA project using this method of funding.

Genshaft was asked by Facilities Committee Chair  H. Wayne Huizenga Jr. at the October meeting if this was something USF was open to and she said it could be a good option.

“Although we would like to fund these projects with PECO, the math works against us,” Huizenga said.