Legislative Priorities

President Kent Fuchs

Session Wrap-Up Letter to Gators for Higher Education (G4HE)

March 14, 2018

Dear Gator Advocates,

Thank you again for your commitment to the University of Florida and for your steadfast and very effective support of our legislative priorities. We are pleased to report that the just-completed session will have lasting benefits for UF.

2018 LEGISLATIVE RECAP

Following a two-day extension, the session concluded on Sunday. The state budget totaled $88.7 billion. Higher education once again emerged as a legislative priority, with $5.1 billion allotted to the State University System.  

The following is a breakdown of funding for UF:

$23.8 million for our rise in the national rankings. The funding comes from Preeminence and Performance funds, the World Class Faculty and Scholars and Professional Graduate Degree Excellence programs and UF Operational and National Ranking support.

$50 million to begin planning and construction of the Data Science and Information Technology Building. This will house faculty and researchers from the College of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy and the Hebert Wertheim College of Engineering, enabling UF to become a national leader in multidisciplinary data science. The legislature also approved $17 million for building maintenance for UF.

Also important are the appropriations we received for various programs, including:

  • St. Augustine Historic Building Roof Replacement: $250,000
  • Lastinger Center - Restore Base Funding Cut: $500,000
  • Lastinger Center - Access to Abuse Prevention & Trauma Informed Care: $1.5 million
  • Lastinger Center - Algebra Nation: $1 million
  • IFAS 4-H & Family Initiative: $500,000
  • Center for Neurodegenerative Disease and Research: $1.5 million
  • Program to Cure Dystonia and Other Muscle Disorders: $500,000

We are pleased the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018 (SB4) was recently signed by Governor Rick Scott with legislative leadership. We are now working closely with the Governor’s office in anticipation of his final action on the budget. Additionally, we offer congratulations to the newest members of the UF Board of Trustees: Dan O’Keefe and Tom Kuntz. They were confirmed by the Senate during the session.

This session was challenging for many, as the state was faced with much need following the damage from Hurricane Irma and the terrible incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In this context, the Florida Legislature’s continued high level of support for the University of Florida affirms that lawmakers remain firmly committed to our climb to the top five.

We are incredibly grateful to all our lawmakers and the governor for their support. I hope you will take a moment and thank your legislators. You may find the contact information on the Gators for Higher Education website at http://gatorsforhighered.ufl.edu/resources/find-your-legislator/. It is great to be a Florida Gator!

Warmly,

W. Kent Fuchs



UF plan for increasing our national ranking – $76 million

UF is requesting $76 million to maintain and accelerate our rise to the top of the national rankings. This plan is broken down into the following 3 categories:

Preeminent Universities – $25 million

The University of Florida intends to hire 500 additional faculty over the next few years. This budget request will support the hiring of 200 new faculty, including 100 Lecturers and 100 Teacher- Scholars, whom have the responsibility for teaching and research.  The Legislature’s investment in UF through the Preeminence Program, with proven return on investment, was a major reason for this year’s five spot jump to No. 9 from No. 14 in U.S. News rankings of public universities. This issue is linked with the $35M request below for the World Class Faculty and Scholars Program.

World class Faculty and Scholars – $35 million

In order to facilitate and support UF’s plan to hire and retain 500 additional faculty, funds are requested to support our outstanding faculty in their work so they can be maximally productive for the university, the state and the world. One metric used to determine the quality of an institution is the amount of resources for faculty support. These funds help cover those costs associated with recruiting, retaining, and supporting outstanding faculty and with building premiere academic and research programs.

Professional & Graduate Degree Program Excellence – $16 million

These funds will be used for scholarships in the colleges of Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Law --- four costly professional areas of study. These scholarships will not only help to address the level of debt students accumulate during their studies, but they may also help address the shortage of rural doctors and dentists. There is a strong correlation between where a student originates (e.g. in a rural county) and where the graduating doctor subsequently chooses to practice.

Utilities/Infrastructure/Maintenance – $30 million

The University of Florida - the oldest public university in the State with a 36 year average building age and with responsibility for maintaining more than 900 state-owned facilities; UF has many buildings that require repairs and renovations. Due to declining PECO revenues and fluctuating appropriations, UF has not been able to keep pace with deteriorating facilities. Funds will help UF address its most serious building maintenance problems.  These funds supplement the Sum-of-the-Digits maintenance formula.

UF Data Science and Information Tech Building – $50 Million

The Data Science and Information Technology Building will house faculty and researchers from the College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering who specialize in analyzing massive amounts of data to tackle complicated problems. The facility will also be the new home of UF Informatics Institute whose focus is on interdisciplinary data challenges in fields ranging from health care to agriculture.  Multiple colleges will be able to recruit and retain outstanding faculty by offering them technically-advanced facilities and the chance to collaborate with other top researchers in these fields.

UF Music Building: Remodeling and Addition – $7.4 Million

UF received $5.9M in FY 2017-18 for the purpose of initial planning and design for renovations to 55,000 gross square feet in UF’s Music Building, originally constructed in 1970, and to expand educational capacity for an additional 49,000 GSF; both activities of which will provide much-needed modern and efficient teaching labs and studio spaces. Improvements will include: a new recital hall, practice rooms and climate-controlled spaces to store and utilize very valuable musical instruments and equipment, and corrections to address health and safety concerns.

Enhance Zika Research & Education Capacity – $2.5 Million

The University of Florida has strong existing Zika expertise centered at the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) and the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL). UF is home to one of three National Institutes of Health-funded Models of Infectious Disease Agents Study (MIDAS), which are currently tasked with the development of risk models for Zika. Through the UF Preeminence program, some of the top scientists in the country with expertise in work with this and similar viruses have been hired.

In FY 2017-18 UF received $1.5M, out of a request for $4M, for the purpose of renovating research labs at EPI and FMEL, as required to facilitate and support federally-funded research on Zika and other vector-borne diseases.  These funds will be used to complete the required necessary renovations to containment laboratories for work with biological disease agents, with a focus on the Zika virus, thus moving quickly to develop both research and education programs for the optimal control of Zika-related illness in Florida.

Institute for Comparative Veterinary Diagnostic – $2.5 Million

A large portion of animal diagnostic testing is presently being sent out-of-state by veterinary medical practitioners in Florida, most of which goes to our peer institutions. This LBR seeks to create the first-of-its-kind Institute for Comparative Veterinary Diagnostics at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. The increased engagement that will naturally accompany the Institute will have positive impacts on animal health, public health, and the economy in Florida.

St. Augustine Historic Building Roofs – $250,000

In 2010, the University of Florida became the managing agency for several historic properties comprised of thirty-five buildings in St. Augustine. Over the past six years, the University of Florida has expended approximately $20 million in state, direct-support organization, grant, and leveraged private funding for building preservation and delivery of public education programs including support for local economic development and tourism. Most of the buildings have “wooden shake” roofs and historic preservation standards require they be replaced with wooden shakes, which is approximately two times the cost of regular roofing.  UF has developed a multi-year plan for replacing these roofs.  These funds will enable two to three of these historic properties to receive new roofs per year.

IFAS Workload – $3,705,379

This funding will allow the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to respond to increased research and extension workload demands. This request is in accordance with the Board of Governors approved formula for addressing IFAS research and extension demand and is included in the BOG official Legislative Budget Request for 2018-19.  

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