Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student Fee to Fund Buildings? Regents Study Bonding Options to Catch Up on Construction Backlog

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student Fee to Fund Buildings? Regents Study Bonding Options to Catch Up on Construction Backlog

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA -- A student fee to help pay for new construction is one option being considered by the University System of Georgia to try to catch up on a massive backlog of requests for new buildings.

Officials cautioned that it is too early to tell exactly how the state Board of Regents, which oversees the system, will decide to fund projects, and they emphasized that the student fee is just one idea.

Linda Daniels, vice chancellor for facilities, raised the prospect of a new student fee at a recent regents meeting as she presented a progress report for a group looking to overhaul the way the university system approves and completes construction projects.

The new funds would work like the motor fuel tax, which allows the Georgia Department of Transportation to issue bonds based on the tax's proceeds. Daniels noted that the department has used that capacity along with general state bonds to speed construction of roads under Gov. Sonny Perdue's "Fast Forward" program.

"We need our own motor fuel tax and fast forward for higher education in Georgia," Daniels said.

A student fee is at least one way of generating the money needed to increase the bonding capacity of the regents, Daniels said. But she said no final decision had been made on how to pay for additional bonds, if any are created.

"I don't know that it's going to be a student fee," she said.

For months now, regents have joined college and university officials in saying that the system's building needs are growing much faster than the construction funding provided by the state. Regents projections show the system could need $6.5 billion for renovations and new projects over the next decade. Last year, it received $94 million in bonds from the state, though the legislature mostly focused on awarding design funds for future projects instead of paying for an entire building. …

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