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CSU seeking new science building funding source

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University officials are actively seeking a new source of funding for a science building, after the governor vetoed a money plan that would have covered the costs of building the facility, according to the school's president.

Gov. Nathan Deal used a line-item veto in the state's 2012 budget, last week, to remove $847,440 in debt service, which would have helped pay for construction of the facility.

The veto is a setback to efforts to get the much-needed new science building built soon at Clayton State. University officials have, for years, touted the need for the building, claiming it would add much-needed laboratory space to help eliminate a backlog of students waiting to take laboratory-science classes.

On Wednesday, University President Tim Hynes said the school is working to get construction funding secured in the state's 2013 budget.

"We've already met with some of the representatives in our legislative delegation, and we'll be consulting with representatives of the [university system's] Board of Regents to review the next steps in securing funding for construction of a new science building," Hynes said.

Funding for Clayton State's planned science building made up the largest, single, appropriations veto Deal issued, but CSU was not the only University System of Georgia institution to see budgeted funding for construction-related projects vetoed by the governor last week.

In all, Deal vetoed $2.9 million in five debt-service appropriations intended to fund building designs, or initial construction, at schools in the system.

"That would pretty much delay those projects for at least a year," said University System Spokesman John Vanchella.

Clayton State officials have been working for years on the science building project, so the school can offer expanded opportunities for students to take laboratory classes, which are part of the required, core curriculum.

The demand for lab classes is so great, officials have repeatedly said it has created a backlog of students waiting to take the classes. The university presently has 11 science labs for students to use. It is expected that the planned, 100,000-square-foot science building would add 16 labs, including eight that would be designated for faculty-research space.

Earlier this year, officials in the school's natural sciences department said the facility would allow Clayton State to provide expanded academic offerings in the natural sciences, including a master's degree in biology and chemistry, and an undergraduate degree in forensic science.

Clayton State opened a Laboratory Annex Building (also known as "The LAB") in January, to add some lab space, but that was never meant to be a final solution to the issue. University officials have always made it clear that "The LAB" was intended to help the school get by until the science building -- which was meant to be the more permanent solution -- could be built.

"We were fortunate to receive support to complete construction of the LAB earlier this year, which gave us a year, or so of breathing room, to meet our students' need for science and behavioral health classes," Hynes said. "Previously, we would have waiting lists of up to 100 students waiting to take a lab.

"Assuming enrollments at the university continue to go up at the rate they have been, we anticipate facing the same sorts of challenges in a year, or two," he added, referring to the fact that Clayton State has set all-time attendance records multiple times in the last five years.

In a written statement, Deal said he vetoed the construction funding, because "the authorized funding is insufficient, providing only a partial amount needed to complete the planned construction."

The debt service that Deal vetoed would have been used to back $9.9 million in 20-year bonds, to pay for the initial phase of the building's construction. University officials have previously said it is expected to cost $29.1 million to build the science facility.

"We really do have a shovel-ready project," said Hynes, referring to comments from Deal that the state should focus on already-designed projects for the university system. "If funding becomes available to support construction, it's ready to be built, and we'd love to have an opportunity, in health and behavioral sciences, to serve even more students," Hynes said.

The governor also vetoed initial construction funding for projects at Valdosta State University and Dalton College; and design and renovation projects at the University of Georgia. In his written statement, he gave the same reason for vetoing the appropriations for Valdosta State and Dalton College that he gave for vetoing the funding for Clayton State.

He also vetoed $746,432 in debt service appropriations intended to pay for the designing of projects at six schools in the state's technical college system.