Dear USF community,
Friday, April 30, marked the end of the 2021 Florida Legislative session. Despite the uncertainty that influenced the session due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our elected officials in Tallahassee produced a final state budget that retains much of the state’s support for higher education and for the University of South Florida. We are grateful to our partners in the Legislature for their support and for recognizing the important impact that USF makes on Florida’s progress and prosperity.
The budget will now be transmitted to Gov. Ron DeSantis in the coming weeks and will not be final until his signature. The Legislature also passed several other pieces of legislation this year that will impact higher education. These will also now be transmitted to the governor for his review and approval.
Here are some of the relevant highlights, provided by USF Vice President for Government Relations Mark Walsh:
- Last summer, universities were asked by the Florida Board of Governors to prepare for a state budget cut of up to 8.5%, with 6% of our state budget this year preemptively held back by the state. The budget approved by the Legislature Friday, however, reverses nearly all of those planned cuts to our state operating funds both in the current year and in the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1.
- Performance-based funding and Preeminence were funded at the same amounts as in prior years. USF received no new Preeminence funding.
- The Legislature fully funded our request for $8.1 million for construction of the Judy Genshaft Honors College facility. Along with the substantial philanthropic and other local funds already applied to the total cost, this funding by the state, if signed into law by the governor, will complete the full construction cost of the facility.
- The Legislature approved the disbursement of $46 million in Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF) fee revenue for Florida’s public universities. These funds accrue from student fees over time at each campus and are used to fund student-approved campus life projects. If signed into law, USF will receive permission to use $6.5 million of this year’s disbursement to fund student life projects on each of our campuses, such as the new Student Wellness Center on the Tampa campus.
- The Legislature set aside $350 million from the state’s federal stimulus funds to be used on deferred maintenance projects at state-owned facilities, and specifically made state university facilities eligible to receive funds from this source. Over the summer we will refresh our priority list of these projects and submit them to the Board of Governors, which will send a statewide list for the governor’s consideration.
While this year’s state budget outlook is better than we had anticipated, USF still faces financial challenges that require continued fiscal responsibility and careful planning to align recurring expenses with recurring revenues. We also do not know the full impacts of COVID-19 on our university operations. Nevertheless, we are grateful that the Legislature elected not to impose draconian reductions on the State University System and USF. The leadership of USF will now proceed with our budget deliberations with greater certainty and hope for the future.
We will closely monitor the next steps in the process and how the budget will impact individual units across all our campuses as we continue to work through USF’s Strategic Realignment, in conjunction with USF’s Strategic Renewal.
Thanks once again to you, our USF community, for your trust and confidence during a particularly challenging year.