Legislative priorities for 2013 focus on future growth

Photo by Kiyah Crittendon

With the state legislature session halfway finished, Tech’s key institute leaders are continuing to push their 2013 legislative priorities to gain additional funding for the institution.

“During the legislature, certainly from January to the end of March and sometimes early April, your Georgia Tech team is in the Capitol, morning, noon and night sharing legislative priorities with elected leaders,” said Dene Sheheane, the Executive Director of the Office of Government and Community Relations.

Of the five priorities, two are Tech-specific and wish to elicit support from the legislature for the continued building of the Engineered Biosystems Building and renovation of the Lloyd G. Chapin Building. The other three are USG-institute wide, which seek more state funds for repair funds and academic improvements and a rollover of unused funds from one fiscal year to the next.

The first two priorities…focus solely on Tech’s infrastructure…

Getting these priorities presented and support gained for them is a year-round process, but begins in the 40-day legislative session in January. Sheheane explained how this was the period when Tech, including both institute and student leaders, works with individual lawmakers and committees to stress the points that they are trying to get across and how important they are to people all over campus.
“They need to hear from alumni, student, faculty, staff—you name it and they’re going to get a perspective of what’s critical,” Sheheane said.

The five priorities are not presented in any specific order and are not thought of as more or less important than each other but are all important to the success of Tech as a whole, as well as to benefit every school in the University System of Georgia (USG).

With the economic downturn, the state still has not recovered, making it tougher every year for lawmakers to approve and provide for every priority presented before them. According to Sheheane, there are too many good ideas that need to be considered to be funded and unfortunately not enough resources to match. This has caused many schools to continue to push forward for the sake of higher education in a way that benefits all.

Georgia Tech Priorities

The first two priorities, which focus solely on Tech’s infrastructure, are to “secure $5 million in bonds to complete and equip the Engineered Biosystems Building” as well as to “secure $1.875 million for the rehabilitation of the Lloyd W. Chapin Building”, according to the document provided by the Office of the President.

“We have a capital improvement plan; all campuses in the Board of Regents system have a multi-year capital improvement plan and every year, it gets revisited and revised depending on the campus,” said Howard Wertheimer, Director of the Office of Capital Planning and Space Management.

The Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB) was approved a year and a half ago and construction began in late 2012. The additional five million dollars will provide equipment necessary to complete the facility. Tech committed $49 million in institutional and private funds to leverage the total $64 million request for bonds issued by the state.

The Chapin Building, constructed more than 100 years ago currently suffers severe infrastructural degradation. Originally an infirmary, the building’s renovations would include mainly bringing the building up to safety codes. This would also most likely mean finding temporary swing space for the Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED), which is headquartered in this building, during the time that renovations were being done.

USG Priorities

The last three priorities which impact all USG institutions are to “secure $96 million in new formula funds among all USG institutions in support of critical day-to-day operations”; “secure $50 million in major repair and rehabilitation funds” and “secure renewal of the provision allowing carry-forward of certain USG funds.”

A combination of Institute leadership, student leadership, Board of Regents and the chancellor getting together…

“A combination of Institute leadership, student leadership, Board of Regents and the chancellor getting together in a year round process to have dialogue about what’s important to higher education in Georgia,” Sheheane said, in regards to how these last three priorities are determined.

The new formula funds are essential to maintaining Georgia Tech’s academic quality as the student-faculty ratio continues to rise.
Major repair and rehabilitation funds are a part of the more than $100 million Tech has in deferred maintenance needs, which is a problem reflected across the entire system. At Tech, these funds will be directed strategically to maintain safe and operable facilities across campus.

Finally, the renewal of of the provision passed by Georgia legislation to carry-forward certain USG funds would allow a small amount of funds from one fiscal year to be carried over to the next. Ultimately, this would allow schools like Tech to be better fiscal stewards and managers of funds on both the institutional and state levels.